House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said his chamber will look at the potential revenue for the state and the impact a new casino might have on existing operators. And he said the views of Prince George’s delegates would factor heavily during the remaining two weeks of the 90-day session.
“Certainly it’s imperative that a majority of the Prince George’s delegation be supportive of any legislation that puts a location in their county,” Busch said.
In the Senate, the measure was backed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who touted the lopsided vote on “a very good bill.”
“We have a revenue shortage in the state, and people much prefer this to tax increases,” said Miller, whose legislative district includes a part of Prince George’s.
The bill — which is expected to generate tens of millions of additional dollars in state and county tax revenue — would seek competitive bids for a facility in a western swath of Prince George’s. The territory includes both National Harbor, the 300-acre mixed-use development on the banks of the Potomac River; and Rosecroft Raceway, the recently reopened harness racetrack in Fort Washington.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has championed his vision of a billion-dollar “high-end” casino at National Harbor as the best way to generate jobs and draw gamblers from the District and Northern Virginia.
Two of the eight Prince George’s senators voted against the measure Tuesday.
Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D), whose district includes both potential locations, has complained that Baker’s advocacy for National Harbor has skewed the process.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D) said he thinks the county should focus its economic development efforts elsewhere.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t be bringing in research and technology as economic engines in the county, not gambling,” Pinsky said.
Several House members from Prince George’s share that view, and on Tuesday, the delegation’s leader, Melony G. Griffith (D), said state lawmakers from her county remain “virtually split” on the prospect of a Prince George’s casino.
“I would not say it’s impossible that a bill moves,” Griffith said. “But it would be more than a heavy lift for proponents, of which I am not one, and the clock is ticking.”
Under Maryland law, any major gambling expansion requires a statewide vote. The bill that passed the Senate would also prevent a casino from coming to Prince George’s if a majority of county voters do not support the idea in the statewide referendum.