Update, 4:50 p.m.: Matt Gallagher, chief of staff to O’Malley and a member of the work group, has announced that there is not sufficient consensus to move forward on an expanded gambling proposal.
Update, 3 p.m.: Two hours after its advertised meeting time, the gambling work group is still behind closed doors. Work group members from the House of Delegates have left the room to talk separately, sources say.
Update, 2 p.m.: An hour after its advertised meeting time, Maryland’s work group on expanded gambling is still huddled behind closed doors, struggling to reach consensus, according to several participants.
Update, 12:10 p.m.: The Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved on a 3 to 0 vote the ground lease and other provisions needed to move forward with a casino at Rocky Gap.
The work group on expanded gambling has been meeting behind closed doors and making “painstaking progress,” according to a source in the meeting. The group is scheduled to begin a public meeting at 1 p.m.
Wednesday could be a pivotal day in Maryland’s gambling program.
A work group launched by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is scheduled to meet for the final time to determine whether it can reach consensus over a plan to expand the state’s slots program. So far, it hasn’t been easy.
On the table are a possible new casino, most likely at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and Las Vegas-style table games, which would become legal at the state’s five other slots venues as well.
O’Malley has said he will take his cue from the work group in deciding whether to call a special session of the General Assembly the week of July 9. Besides legislative approval, an expanded gambling proposal would also require the endorsement of statewide voters in November.
A separate state panel is expected Wednesday to approve a key piece of a plan to allow construction of a casino at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Western Maryland.
The state-financed lodge was identified in 2007 by lawmakers as a desired slots location but was slow to attract bidders to build an adjacent casino. Because the site sits on state property, the Board of Public Works must sign off Wednesday morning on ground lease terms for Evitts Resort to move forward with its plans.
The greater drama is expected to play out in the afternoon when the gambling work group assembles for a public meeting.
The group, which consists of legislators and O’Malley administration officials, has scrambled in recent days to craft a plan behind closed doors. On Tuesday, a lot of numbers were still in flux, according to members of the panel.
The largest issue is how to fairly compensate existing casino owners — especially those in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore — if a new casino is introduced in Prince George’s.
The panel is also likely to recommend allowing table games and shifting procurement responsibility of slot machines from the state to casino owners. Maryland is one of only a handful of states where the state is responsible for buying or leasing machines for its privately run casinos.
O’Malley administration officials have suggested the entire package of proposed changes will either rise or fall together.