Md. bill will seek approval of casino table games, slots at Rosecroft Raceway

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011; 9:27 PM

Maryland voters could be asked to decide next year whether to allow Las Vegas-style table games at the state's slots casinos - including a new location in Prince George's County - in a bid to be more competitive with surrounding states.

However, the two powerful Democrats who preside over the General Assembly are at odds over whether to attempt to authorize a referendum during the current 90-day legislative session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the legislature's leading gambling proponents, plans to support a bill that would seek voter approval for games including blackjack, roulette and craps at the state's five existing slots sites.

The bill, which is still being drafted, would also add a sixth location: the now-shuttered Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.

The prospect of expanded gambling has long divided Prince George's lawmakers and community leaders - a reality Miller downplayed when discussing Rosecroft.

"We're not talking about Snow White's farm," said Miller, whose Senate district includes part of Prince George's. "There's been gambling on horse racing there for decades."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, however, told reporters that while he expects robust debate over table games this session, he sees no reason to resolve the issue before lawmakers return in January 2012.

"What's the urgency of this year?" Busch asked, noting that the earliest a statewide vote on table games could occur is November 2012.

Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all put table games in place in recent years.

Under the terms of a ballot measure Maryland voters approved in 2008, state leaders seeking to expand gambling beyond slots must go back to voters.

The 2008 measure authorized 15,000 machines at locations in Baltimore and in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties.

Busch said he did not know whether there would be enough votes in his chamber to add table games, and he said he has not polled the Prince George's delegation to see whether its members are more amenable to gambling than they were four years ago.

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