The plan represents Maryland’s largest gambling expansion since 2008, when voters authorized slots at five locations in the state after a bitter legislative battle.
O’Malley’s bill attempts to compensate existing casino owners for the new competition in Prince George’s by bumping up their share of revenue and by turning Maryland’s facilities into 24-hour operations. The bill, which was posted on the Internet late Tuesday night, also bans political donations from gambling companies.
It’s unclear whether the governor has the votes needed to get his proposal approved. Similar legislation died in the House of Delegates during this year’s regular legislative session, and the House again balked at a gambling expansion plan drafted this spring by a group O’Malley convened.
Joseph C. Bryce, O’Malley’s chief legislative officer, told reporters Tuesday that his office has responded to delegates’ concerns and made the case for the plan, which he said could net the state more than $200 million a year once it is fully implemented.
“We’ve just kind of rolled up our sleeves and spent a lot of time trying to be responsive to whatever people are concerned about,” Bryce said. “We think it’s a good product, and we think at the end of the day, people will see that.”
Senate leaders have said they are confident that the plan will pass in their chamber by Friday.
Aides to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who has been cool to previous proposals, said Tuesday that he believes the new bill can pass in a session expected to stretch into early next week.
“The work of the House is not done,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to provide input throughout the special session in order to put the best product possible before the voters in November.”
Busch cited several provisions in O’Malley’s bill that he considers priorities, including one that would not only require a majority vote statewide but also one in Prince George’s for a casino to move forward there.
House Republican leaders have vowed to oppose the bill, which they said should wait until next year’s regular legislative session for consideration.
The most vocal opponent remains the owner of the state’s largest casino, Maryland Live!, which opened in June at Arundel Mills mall in Anne Arundel County.
The Cordish Cos. says that a Prince George’s venue would unfairly cut into its market in the Washington region and that the state cannot sustain another “mega-casino.”
Maryland Live! will have 4,750 slot machines by this fall, making it among the largest casinos in the nation by that measure.