Pr. George's seems opposed to legal card games at Rosecroft

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Given the chance, the odds would be long that Prince George's County residents would approve legalized card games at a financially troubled racetrack in the county.

Religious leaders don't like it.

Civic leaders aren't fond of it.

And local civil rights leaders say the games could move Prince George's, the country's most affluent majority-black county, several steps backward.

The Maryland Senate recently passed a bill that could bring Las Vegas-style table games, including poker and blackjack, to Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.

Under the legislation, which is now in a House committee, voters statewide would be asked in a referendum to decide whether poker and blackjack should be allowed at the racetrack.

If the proposal passes, Rosecroft Raceway, where simulcast racing ended in May because of contract disputes, would be the only venue statewide where card games would be allowed. Voters approved 15,000 slot machines at five locations in 2008, but none of those sites has machines.

Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's), the bill's sponsor and a staunch gambling opponent in the past, previously said that expanded gambling was a "desperation move" to help keep the track afloat.

Mark Vogel, a developer who hopes to purchase Rosecroft, has said that hundreds of jobs could be lost if card games are not allowed at the track. Muse also cited job losses as his reason for sponsoring the bill.

The Innovation Group, an Orlando-based firm that provides analyses and forecasts for the gaming industry, found that table game operations would bring 1,250 to 1,500 jobs to the track. Revenue could reach $300 million, with up to $145 million coming from out of state, according to the study, which was commissioned this year by Mark Vogel Companies.

"I know Vogel is working it hard, and I know we want to do something to keep it open," said Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George's). "But I just don't see [the referendum] happening. . . . But of course, anything can happen" in Annapolis.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's) tried unsuccessfully last month to add an amendment to the bill that would have required not only a majority of statewide voters to approve the measure in a referendum, but also a majority of Prince George's voters to approve it.

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