The Washington Post

A call for O’Malley to show ‘leadership’ on Md. gambling

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) cut the ribbon to mark the grand opening of the Casino at Ocean Downs in Berlin, Md., in January. (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Amanda Rippen White)

It’s no secret that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. wants the state to upgrade its fledgling program. Miller would like to legalize table games -- black jack, roulette and the like -- at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots sites and establish a sixth gambling location in Prince George’s County, as reported in a story that appeared in Monday’s print editions of The Post.

But Miller (D-Calvert), who has presided over his chamber for more than two decades, said Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) needs to show some “leadership” on the issue to make it happen.

“He’s the leader of the state, and I’d hope he has some vision for the future,” Miller said, citing as an example the work of former Gov. Ed Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania, a state whose 10 casinos now include table games.

“I want us to be competitive with our sister states,” Miller said. “You have to understand the consequences of not moving forward when the time is right. We’re way behind.”

O’Malley sounded pretty cool during an interview to both the prospects of legalizing table games and to adding a Prince George’s gambling site.

And the governor also bristled at Miller’s call for “leadership,” which echoed his comments on other issues in recent months, including a Miller-backed plan during the last legislative session that would have raised the gas tax significantly to pay for transportation projects.

“Sometimes when he says that, it’s code for his wishing that I shared his opinion on a given issue,” O’Malley said.

Speaking specifically of gambling, O’Malley said: “All of us have to keep an open mind, but just because we have an open mind doesn’t mean we don’t have our own mind.”

During the interview, O’Malley made the case that Maryland voters approved a 2008 referendum allowing slots in part “because it was limited and because it was a moderate proposal. . . . It was my sense that we didn’t want to go to full-bore casinos.”

That referendum authorized up to 15,000 slot machines at the five locations. Two have since opened, with a total of 2,250 machines.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.


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