Voters would get the final say in November on whether the plan goes forward, following what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign.
The measure cleared the House 71 to 58 — the bare minimum required for passage — at about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. About half an hour later, the Senate, which approved a similar bill last week, signed off on the House changes by a vote of 32 to 14. That brought to an end a special session called by O’Malley, who is expected to hold a bill-signing ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Boosters of the plan, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), have touted the promise of thousands of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue flowing to the state and host counties.
“In the end, we will have a healthy, competitive marketplace,” House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) told his colleagues toward the end of a floor debate that stretched over more than seven hours.
Opponents have warned that Maryland risks an oversaturated gambling market in which some of its emerging, large-scale casinos are destined to fail.
The plan attempts to compensate owners of other casinos for the new competition by letting them keep a larger share of slots proceeds than under current law.
That prompted some lawmakers to question why the legislature was giving casino owners a break after passing a series of tax hikes in recent years, including an income tax increase on six-figure earners this spring.
“I think that’s disgraceful,” said Del. Herbert H. McMillan (R-Anne Arundel). “If cutting taxes for casinos is great policy, then why aren’t we doing it for everyone else?”
By the time a Prince George’s venue is supposed to open, in mid-2016, motorists traveling along a 44-mile stretch of Route 295 would have three large casinos to choose among, each with more slot machines than any single casino on the Vegas Strip.
A gambling venue at National Harbor, the most likely site of a Prince George’s casino, would be among the first things people see upon crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland. MGM Resorts has been lined up as the operator.
The state’s largest venue, Maryland Live!, which opened in June at an outlet mall in Anne Arundel County, raked in $35 million in revenue last month. Caesars Entertainment has been given the go-ahead to build another venue scheduled to open in downtown Baltimore in 2014. And three other smaller facilities are open or in the works elsewhere in the state.