Lawmakers had originally suggested that 5 percent of the proceeds go to machines and other operations, but raided that pot to help make the slots measure more palatable to various groups.
By the time the final plan was adopted, the operators' share had risen from 30 percent to 33 percent, and more money had been set aside for a minority- and women-owned business investment account and to augment horse racing purses. Still, Maryland's law imposes one of the highest tax rates on casinos in the country.
Any request for more money could come at a time when the state needs to make budget cuts to close a nearly $2 billion revenue shortfall next year.
"We're spending money we won't have coming in until who knows when," Meis- ner said.
Warren G. Deschenaux, the legislature's chief fiscal analyst, said it would be unusual for a gambling operation of this size to be supported by a cut as small as 2 percent. He noted the state has an interest in maximizing casino profits because its share of the proceeds could top $600 million annually.
"People can argue about priorities," Deschenaux said. "But in the end, we're looking downstream to $600 million, and I don't think people are going to sneeze at that."
Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat and one of the legislature's most vocal critics of gambling, questioned whether lawmakers or the public understood how the proceeds would be divided, and said the casino operators should provide any additional money for machines. "What a novel idea that private business people be required to spend their own money," he said.
Simmons predicted that market competition would spur expansion into other forms of gambling, which would require voter approval, and that the introduction of electronic table games represents "the first step."
"We're told now that we've introduced gambling [that] we just can't have your grandfather's or your father's slot machines," he said. "Ultimately, we're going to end up with full casinos. That is fait accompli at this point."