That figure would drop by about $32 million under the House plan compared with the Senate bill.
In what appeared to be a bid to pick up additional votes for the underlying bill, the House agreed to an amendment Tuesday that could significantly expand the number of veterans organizations allowed to offer up to five lottery devices that are similar in appearance to slot machines. The provision, which has long been a priority for VFW halls and American Legion posts, was approved on a voice vote after some testy debate.
Some counties, including Montgomery, were not included in the amendment at the insistence of local lawmakers. Prince George’s is among those included.
O’Malley’s gambling plan will be on the ballot statewide in November, but Prince George’s is certain to be the epicenter of an expected multimillion-dollar ad campaign.
That’s because a provision in the bill only allows a casino to move forward in Prince George’s if a majority of county voters support the measure, regardless of the statewide tally.
Given that dynamic, the ideal outcome for some gaming companies operating in Maryland would be for the measure to carry statewide but fail in Prince George’s. That way, the operators would get table games but wouldn’t face additional competition from a site better situated to draw patrons from the District and Virginia.
The bill’s passage also underscored the clout O’Malley retains in Annapolis.
As his national political travels have increased in recent months, so too has grumbling among lawmakers that he is more interested in positioning himself for national office than tending to matters back home.
A few high-profile O’Malley initiatives fell short in the regular session — including a transportation plan that went nowhere — and the governor shared some of the blame for a final-night debacle that brought down both a major tax bill and gambling proposal.
Weeks later, O’Malley announced a pair of special sessions to mop up work on those two issues, pressing forward on gambling despite a lack of enthusiasm from House members.
O’Malley himself had dismissed an expanded gambling proposal during the regular session as a distraction, and as recently as last week, he proclaimed that he was “so sick” of the issue that he just wanted to put it behind him.
Nevertheless, O’Malley developed a new proposal and prodded delegates to accept a long-standing priority for the Senate president.
The bill would invite bids for a Prince George’s site from a swath of the county that includes both National Harbor and Rosecroft.
Baker has championed a site at National Harbor, the 300-acre mini-city on the Potomac River, drawing protest from Penn National Gaming, the owner of Rosecroft, a horse track in Fort Washington.
As envisioned, a casino at National Harbor would sit atop a wind-whipped hill just to the east of the heart of the development.
Penn has pledged it would build a new, state-of-the art facility at Rosecroft.
Even though it would be eligible for a Prince George’s license, Penn has called the process in Maryland “sleazy,” and signaled that the company is willing to pour millions into efforts to defeat the referendum.
Penn also has an out-of-state interest to protect. It is the owner of a full-fledged casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that stands to lose more of its Maryland customer base if a facility pops up in Prince George’s.
Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.