The Cordish Cos., the owner of Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County, has been most vocal in recent weeks in arguing that O’Malley’s plan was “patently unfair” because a Prince George’s casino — most likely at National Harbor or Rosecroft Raceway — would undercut its ability to draw gamblers from the Washington region.
Del. Frank S. Turner (D-Howard), who chairs a subcommittee with jurisdiction over gambling issues, said the additional relief would help ensure that the state’s three largest casinos — all in the Washington-Baltimore corridor — could be viable.
“We want all of them to be successful,” Turner said. “If they fail, then we fail as a state. We don’t want them to become eyesores in five years.”
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) mocked the action as “a pay increase for billionaire casino owners.” In Maryland, slots revenue is split among the privately owned casinos, the state and host counties.
“Is this what the Democratic Party means by ‘taking care of the little guy?’ ” O’Donnell asked.
The changes to O’Malley’s legislation were among dozens considered by the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday before it voted 13 to 7 to advance the bill. Delegates are laboring to complete work on the legislation by Tuesday. They are in Annapolis for a special session called by O’Malley, who has said he’s “sick of the issue” and wants to put it behind him.
The plan under consideration would also allow table games, such as blackjack and roulette, at Maryland’s five existing slots sites. Under current law, venues may offer only electronic versions of those games that don’t involve dealers.
That provision — as well as one that would allow 24-hour operation — has proven far less controversial than the proposal to allow a new facility in Prince George’s.
Both the new venue and the new games would also require approval of voters in November, assuming House leaders can round up enough votes for the bill and differences with the Senate are resolved.
The legislation under consideration would be the largest expansion of gambling in Maryland since voters authorized five slots locations in 2008. Two of those have yet to open.
Legislative analysts estimate that O’Malley’s proposal would net the state about $200 million a year in gambling revenue once a Prince George’s facility opens in mid-2016. Most of that — about $130 million — is unrelated to the Prince George’s facility, however.
Under the O’Malley proposal, the net revenue to the state from the Prince George’s casino is estimated to be about $70 million a year, after accounting for concessions to other casino owners.