This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. May 22.
Less than a week after the end of one special session of the General Assembly, the governor and legislative leaders released the names of a panel whose work could pave the way for another special session in July.
The Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion, announced by the governor’s office Monday night, will meet in June to study the issues related to potentially spreading gambling in Maryland. If consensus is reached, the group likely will propose legislation for a special session to convene July 9.
“It became evident in the 2012 legislative session that the issue of gaming should be examined in more detail,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in a statement.
In naming the members of the work group, O’Malley said, “We are confident that their expertise and guidance will help us move toward consensus on this issue.”
During this year’s regular General Assembly session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach pushed legislation to expand gambling to include Las Vegas-style table games at existing slots sites and an additional casino location in Prince George’s County. But the measure was not brought to a final vote in the House before the session adjourned April 9.
Critics accused Miller of effectively holding the state’s budget bills hostage until the gaming bill passed, a charge that Miller repeatedly denied.
The work group includes three senators, three delegates and four members of the O’Malley administration.
Senators include Richard Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington and Nathaniel McFadden (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore, who co-sponsored the gaming bill in the regular session, as well as Budget & Taxation Committee Chairman Edward Kasemeyer (D-Dist. 12) of Columbia.
Delegates include Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Sheila Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, Peter Hammen (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore and Frank Turner (D-Dist. 13) of Columbia, who chairs the gaming subcommittee and has been skeptical of expanding slots in the state.
Administration members include Chief of Staff Matthew Gallagher, Secretary of Budget and Management T. Eloise Foster, Secretary of Appointments Jeanne Hitchcock and O’Malley policy adviser Joseph Bryce.
“I think everyone’s going to go in with an open mind,” Madaleno said. “I don’t think [the governor] has any specific plan in mind as of yet.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis said Tuesday that the group was reflective of the demographics of the state, and pointed out that two of the alternate members, Del. Derek Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro and Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie, were from Prince George’s County.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) wants to develop a billion-dollar, high-end gambling facility at National Harbor, which he argues would draw visitors from Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
“You certainly want support from the Prince George’s County delegation, at least the majority of them, if in fact they want a [casino] there,” Busch said.
The speaker told reporters last month that on the last day of the regular session only about 38 of the 141 delegates supported the bill to expand gaming. About 30 members were opposed, and the remaining votes were either undecided or unknown, Busch said.
In order to reach a consensus on the issue, lawmakers would need to be sure expanded gaming would benefit the state financially and mitigate any loss in revenue to planned casino sites in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County.
Miller told reporters last week that the developers of the Maryland Live! casino in Anne Arundel would be offered some sort of break in order to be held harmless if a casino opened in neighboring Prince George’s.
The group will be chaired by John Morton III, whom O’Malley appointed to chair the Maryland Stadium Authority in 2008.
The work group will hold its first meeting June 1, and additional meetings have been scheduled for June 12 and 20.