Judge nixes Question 7 challenge -- Gazette.Net


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An Anne Arundel County judge has denied a legal challenge to the results of last year’s ballot question allowing expanded gambling in Maryland.

A lawsuit filed by eight Prince George’s County residents in November questioned the number of votes that the initiative, known as Question 7, needed to pass. The plaintiffs argued that there was a discrepancy between the number cited in the Maryland Constitution and the number in the bill adopted by lawmakers last summer.

But Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth disagreed, writing in a memorandum opinion that lawmakers clearly intended that the ballot question needed only a majority of votes cast in the election in order to pass, not the majority of the state’s registered voters that the plaintiffs claimed was necessary.

Silkworth also ruled that the plaintiffs waited too long to challenge the ballot question, filing their complaint just four days before the Nov. 6 election and 51 days after the ballot language had been posted on the website of the State Board of Elections.

Thomas E. Dernoga, attorney for the plaintiffs and a former Prince George’s County councilman, did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

The initial lawsuit was filed against the State Board of Elections, but two other Prince George’s residents intervened as defendants. They were joined by the owners of Maryland Live! casino in Hanover and the investment group behind the forthcoming Harrah’s casino in downtown Baltimore and MGM Resorts International, the prospective operators of a new resort and casino to be located in Prince George’s County.

“We’re very pleased,” said Timothy Maloney, the attorney who represented the two intervening residents. “The court basically adopted all of the defendants’ arguments,” he said.

About 1.29 million people, or 51.9 percent of those who cast ballots in November, voted in support of Question 7, which allowed table games at the state’s existing casinos and gave permission for a new casino in Prince George’s. About 1.19 million, or 48.1 percent, voted against the initiative.

In the weeks before the election, Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va., and MGM each poured more than $40 million into advertising campaigns opposing and supporting the measure, respectively.

dleaderman@gazette.net