Senate gives preliminary OK to casino bill

August 10, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Senate gave its preliminary approval Friday to Gov.Martin O'Malley's bill expanding casino gambling in the state after brushing aside more than a dozen amendments by large margins.

The bill is expected to come up for a final vote in the Senate when it meets again at 6 p.m. The measure still requires action in the House of Delegates.

The only amendment where the vote was at all close was one that would have allowed five slot machines at veterans organizations. That amendment failed by a 19-23 vote. Most were beaten back by margins of about 3-1.

Sen. George Edwards, a Western Maryland Republican, won unanimous approval for an amendment directing 0.5 percent of the revenues from the planned casino at Rocky Gap in Allegany County to capital improvements at the site. He said the amendment could help the company with the license, Evitts Resorts, replace the conference space it expects to occupy at Rocky Gap more quickly than the 36 months the company has been given by the state. Evitts recently scaled back its plans at Rocky Gap from 850 slots to 500 because of trouble in obtaining financing. It also put off plans to build an addition to the resort, choosing to get off the ground using existing space.

Among the defeated amendments was one that would have stripped from the bill its approval of a new casino in Prince George's County while allowing the addition of table games to go forward at the five already-licensed slots-only casinos. The amendment, offered by Baltimore County Democratic Sen. Jim Brochin, was rejected on a 9-33 vote.

The votes are an indication that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Millerwill have no trouble mustering a strong majority for the bill in his chamber. The measure was the subject of a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee as the Senate debated.

Miller has been the leading proponent of treating table games and the sixth casino as a package deal. The House could still make changes to the Senate bill.

The House is scheduled to return Monday morning to consider delegates' amendments to the bill. Leading Democrats have said they hope action on the bill will be completd by the middle of next week.

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