Five O’Malley appointees and three state senators on the panel endorsed a plan Wednesday to add a Prince George’s casino, probably at National Harbor, and to allow Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots locations.
But the dissent of the three other members — all from the House of Delegates — was enough to sink the plan, on which O’Malley was seeking a “consensus.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who appointed and advised the delegates on the panel, came under fire Thursday not only from O’Malley but also from Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), a major casino booster.
Baker said he believed that he had been misled and “lied to” by Busch, a longtime mentor, about the conditions under which House members would support a Prince George’s casino, which MGM Resorts International has been enlisted to operate.
“Was I mad yesterday? Yes, because I felt like I had been lied to,” Baker said in an interview. “I was lied to by Busch.”
Busch said he thought he had been “candid and straightforward with everybody” who had talked to him about gambling in recent weeks. “I have the utmost respect for Rushern Baker. He’s a quality guy and individual,” Busch said.
Busch said House members were willing to agree to a Prince George’s site, but only if the existing 67 percent tax rate for casino owners stayed in place. The rest of the work group endorsed a plan that would lower tax rates to reflect the increased competition.
Under that plan, two casinos — in Anne Arundel and Baltimore — would get at least a 5 percentage point reduction in their tax rates. And the operator of the Prince George’s casino could seek a similar reduction when bidding for a license.
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery), a member of the work group, said the adjustments were needed, given the introduction of another large-scale casino into Maryland’s market.
“I don’t think anyone could say with a straight face that you could have an effective gaming program if you don’t modify what the operators receive,” Garagiola said. “It just wouldn’t be economically viable.”
That sentiment was echoed by Matthew Gallagher, O’Malley’s chief of staff, in an interview.
Garagiola stressed that even with the tax rate reductions, the state would net more than $200 million in additional money each year from the work group’s plan.
Both Busch and Garagiola expressed a willingness to continue talking about their differences in coming days.