A proposal to expand gambling in Maryland is expected to face numerous amendments in the House of Delegates this week, a House subcommittee chair said Saturday.
“There will be a lot of amendments, they just haven’t been prepared yet,” said Del. Frank Turner (D-Dist. 13) of Columbia, who chairs the subcommittee that deals with gambling issues.
“I think we’ll have a lot of work to do, but we’ll move through it very quickly. It’s mostly at this point, tweaking what’s already there,” Turner said. “People have got all kinds of ideas and all kinds of views.”
The bill, introduced by Gov. Martin O’Malley last week, will allow Las Vegas-style table games at the states existing casinos and authorize a sixth casino, to be located in Prince George’s County. Other provisions include a series of adjustments to the state’s 67 percent tax rate on slots revenue to compensate casinos for additional competition and operating costs.
The House Ways and Means Committee held an initial hearing on the bill Friday, and the Senate voted 28 to 14 in favor of its version of the bill that evening. Lawmakers expect the special session to wrap up Tuesday night.
Turner’s subcommittee met for about 90 minutes Saturday, but did not discuss or introduce specific amendments. Delegates voiced their concerns about some provisions in the bill, including language banning casino owners from making campaign contributions to state and local elected officials.
“Teachers give to us. Utilities give to us,” said Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, adding that while it might make sense not to take casino donations in advance of a vote like the one anticipated this week, once vote had been taken the prohibition wasn’t needed.
Ivey said she was concerned that a casino could still make independent expenditures in a campaign, such as by running attack ads against a county executive candidate it felt was hostile to its interests.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) wants to put a high-end casino and resort at the waterfront National Harbor development, a plan that has drawn fierce criticism from the owners of the recently-opened Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, who see it as a threat to their investment.
Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville said he would submit an amendment calling for a designated joint oversight committee to weigh the recommendations of a proposed State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission. The commission, with legislative approval, could allow casinos in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City to keep an additional 5 percent of their slots revenue once a Prince George’s casino opens.
The committee is expected to continue working on the bill Monday.