On Wednesday, after multiple inquiries from The Washington Post, an affiliate of the Cordish Cos., which owns Maryland Live!, filed a late form listing $5,500 in campaign contributions. Elections officials said the filing could result in a fine because it was late. Company officials did not respond to requests to explain why the form, which included contributions since 2010, was tardy.
William Rickman, the owner of Ocean Downs, did not respond to several inquiries this week from The Post, both directly and through his Annapolis lobbyist.
A representative of the public-interest group Common Cause called the lack of compliance with the disclosure law troubling.
“A free and fair debate on gambling depends on absolute transparency from these companies,” said James Browning, the group’s regional director of state operations. “It’s important to be able to connect the dots between what they’re giving and the return they’re getting.”
The form is due twice a year from companies doing business with the state as well as those that retain lobbyists in Annapolis. The owners of Maryland Live! and Ocean Downs have employed lobbyists in the capital since at least 2010. Elections officials said they have no record of receiving forms from either casino owner since then.
Some of the information requested on the disclosure form is available in other state filings. But if filled out properly, the form provides more detailed and more timely disclosures than are publicly available elsewhere.
A filing in February, for example, by Penn National Gaming, the owner of a casino in Cecil County, detailed more than $28,000 in campaign contributions late last year and early this year from four affiliated companies, including two in Ohio, to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and other lawmakers.
In Miller’s case, the contributions exceeded what could have been given legally by a single entity.
The spotty disclosure comes amid an effort by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and others to rein in the amount of casino money flowing to Maryland candidates.
A provision in the gambling bill introduced by O’Malley during the special session sought to ban casino contributions. The measure was weakened by the legislature, allowing what critics say are several big loopholes. There is nothing in the new law, for example, to prevent companies affiliated with casino owners from making contributions to Maryland candidates.
The new law also does nothing to curb the ability of gambling companies to give unlimited donations to ballot-issue committees. MGM Resorts, which has been lined up to run a proposed casino at National Harbor, has given about $2.4 million to such a committee advocating passage of a statewide ballot measure in November that would allow a gambling venue in Prince George’s County.