- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A special legislative session to consider an expansion of gambling in Maryland could be announced by the end of the week, according to House of Delegates leadership.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) met with House Democratic leaders for more than an hour Wednesday. Busch said he didn’t want a possible announcement — which would come from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) — to catch delegates off guard.
Subsequent Washington Post and Baltimore Sun news reports said the announcement is expected Friday. The special session would be scheduled for August.
“I’m assuming [the governor] believes that the votes are there to pass legislation,” Busch said.
Busch said he assured House members that they would have input into the legislation that would authorize expanding gambling. Among the guarantees lawmakers would want in such legislation would be a provision giving Prince George’s voters final say over whether a casino would come to their county, likely at National Harbor on the Potomac River — something proposed during this year’s regular session — and that existing casinos would be protected from losing revenue to a sixth casino, Busch said.
Busch said discussions would likely begin with the recommendations of the state Workgroup to Consider Gaming Expansion, which failed to reach a final agreement last month when House members balked at a proposal to lower the state’s 67 percent tax on slots revenue.
Baltimore city delegation Chair Curt Anderson (D) compared Wednesday’s meeting to the warning that comes before a big storm. “Right now there are many legislators going to the supermarkets getting milk and toilet paper,” Anderson said, adding that it looked like there would be a special session.
Anderson said his delegation still wanted concessions such as increased bonding authority for city schools before its members would support a gaming bill.
Anderson said Wednesday it was not clear whether or not a gambling expansion had the 71 votes needed to pass the House. “I don’t how the governor would know if the votes are there,” he said. “The governor does not have a whip system.”
The administration had not reached out to the city delegation or many other delegates Anderson had spoken to in the past two weeks to get a vote count, he said.
“I think it’s probably a very irresponsible thing to do, to call a special session if you don’t know the votes are there,” Anderson said. “It’s a big gamble, pardon the pun.”