Maryland lawmakers will reconvene Aug. 9 in Annapolis to consider legislation to expand gambling in the state, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Friday.
The expansion would include legalizing Las Vegas-style table games and allowing a sixth casino in Prince George’s County, O’Malley (D) said.
If the General assembly approves legislation in the special session, the issue will go before voters — who must approve any expansion of gambling in the state — in November. Lawmakers face an Aug. 20 deadline to get the issue on the ballot.
The proposed legislation, which still is being crafted and will not be released until shortly before the session, will not include a controversial lowering of the state’s 67 percent tax rate on slots revenues, O’Malley said.
Objections to such an adjustment from House members prevented a state work group on gambling from reaching a final agreement last month, prompting questions about whether an expansion would have enough votes to pass the House.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis said he was confident the votes are now there.
O’Malley hinted that lawmakers would return to the issue of adjusting tax rates after voters had a chance to vote on table games and allowing a sixth site.
Plans for a Prince George’s casino have drawn fire from the owners of the recently opened Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, who believe the five already-approved casino locations should be up and running before an additional site — which could cannibalize the market — is considered.
Currently, three casinos are operating in Maryland. The state’s Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will discuss awarding a license for a Baltimore city casino Tuesday. A casino at Rocky Gap in Allegany County is expected to open in late 2013.
“Anne Arundel County is going to be not just held harmless, it’s going to continue to benefit,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach.
Prince George’s voters also will have the final say at the ballot box on whether a casino is brought to the county, O’Malley said.
If Prince George’s voters don’t approve the casino in November, it won’t be built, Busch said, but table games still could be approved at existing sites.
“I feel confident that the citizens of Prince George’s County will vote overwhelmingly for a sixth site,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has pitched the waterfront National Harbor development as the ideal site for a high-end, destination casino and resort that would draw visitors from Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
MGM Resorts International has agreed to build an $800 million facility at National Harbor that the company estimates would create 4,000 permanent jobs.
The special session likely will last about three days, Miller said.
A special session could cost about $25,000 per day, according to state analysts.