O’Malley releases gambling bill -- Gazette.Net


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The governor’s office released details of a proposed bill to expand gambling Tuesday night — legislation that includes allowing table games and a Prince George’s County casino but not internet gambling.

The bill is largely similar to the recommendations made by members of the state Workgroup to consider Gaming Expansion in June, according to the office of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

Key provisions include:

- Table games, such as blackjack and roulette, at existing casinos, to be taxed at a rate of 20 percent.

- Allowing a sixth casino license, to be located in Prince George’s County, with 3,000 slot machines. Both Rosecroft Raceway and the waterfront National Harbor development will be possible locations. The casino would not be allowed to open until July 1, 2016, or 30 months after a Baltimore casino opens, whichever comes first.

- Authorizing a Prince George’s site would be conditional upon a majority of county voters approving the plan when it goes to referendum in November.

- Modifications to the state tax structure so casinos in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County will keep an additional 5 percent of slots proceeds to cover marketing and/or capital improvements to their facilities. Operators of the state’s existing casinos currently keep 33 percent of slots proceeds

- The struggling Casino at Ocean Downs will be allowed to keep 43 percent of their proceeds beginning in July 2013.

- Except at Ocean Downs and the planned casino at the Rocky Gap resort in Allegany County, the ownership of slot machines will transfer from the state to the casino operators. As compensation for the additional costs, operators will keep an additional 6 percent of their proceeds. Currently, cost to the state of purchasing or leasing the machine is equal to about 13 percent of slots revenues.

The overall changes to the state’s slots program are expected to bring in about $200 million in new revenue to the state once fully implemented, according to the governor’s office.

The bill also calls for the creation of an appointed State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which would have limited power to further modify the tax rate on gambling revenues.

Internet gambling is no longer on the table.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist.30) of Annapolis initially raised the idea in a memo to House members last week, suggesting that lawmakers should consider the possibility of Internet gaming alongside plans to add Las Vegas-style table games and authorize a Prince George’s County casino.

Busch said he had discussed the matter with state lottery officials and that not enough was known about how to implement such a program.

Delaware became the first state to authorize online gambling — via the websites of the state’s casinos — on computers, tablets and smart phones in June, but the program has not yet been implemented.

Internet gaming was also part of a wish list from The Cordish Cos., owners of the recently-opened Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover and opponents of a Prince George’s casino, of terms that would make an expansion of gambling more palatable. The list also included strict limitations on the size of a new casino and a promise that it would never be allowed to expand.

Late Tuesday, Busch voiced his approval of the governor’s proposal. “Several weeks ago, House leadership presented a number of principles to guide our work, and this legislation reflects our principles,” Busch said in a statement.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday to consider an expansion proposal, and the House will convene Friday.

dleaderman@gazette.net