Members of the work group said they agreed on several facets of a proposal, including allowing table games such as blackjack and roulette, at the state’s five existing slots sites. But three members of the group — all members of the House of Delegates — balked at the notion of adding a sixth casino.
The group’s other eight members — including three state senators — supported the full proposal, which legislative analysts said would boost the state’s share of gaming revenue by $223 million a year. Most of those eight members, however, were not willing to move forward without a Prince George’s site in the mix.
O’Malley expressed bewilderment at the turn of events, telling reporters he thought there was “broad consensus” among the group, which also included members of his administration and a private-sector financial services executive.
“For some reason, suddenly the House decided they did not want to share on that consensus for reasons that don’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” O’Malley said. “And so I can’t entirely explain it to you. I’m looking forward to hearing back from the speaker of the house sometime.”
Aides said Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who appointed the House members and met with them Wednesday, was not available to reporters after the meeting.
Bringing a high-end casino to Prince George’s had become a priority for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), and prospects seemed to be improving as recently as last week. The developers of National Harbor announced that MGM Resorts International, one of the world’s largest gaming companies, would operate a casino if it were given a favorable tax rate.
In a statement, Baker said he was disappointed, but hopeful that legislative leaders would still reach a deal in time for a summer special session.
Delegates on the work group said they were wary of part of the plan that allowed casino owners, including a new one in Prince George’s, to keep a larger share of slots proceeds than under existing law. Supporters said that was necessary to compensate owners for the additional competition that would come with a sixth casino.
But Del. Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery) argued that a tax cut for casino operators was difficult to stomach so soon after the legislature had raised income taxes on six-figure earners in Maryland.
Hixson, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over gaming issues, said she had always believed that lawmakers should allow the five casinos they authorized in 2007 to get up and running before adding a sixth location.