Miller looks forward to next gambling expansion

August 15, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

It wasn't 10 minutes after the Maryland Senate passed a bill dramatically expanding gambling in the state before Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller was looking forward to the next step in casino growth.

Speaking with reporters early Wednesday after the Senate gave its final approval to Gov. Martin O'Malley's casino bill, Miller said he'd like to see a second gambling site inPrince George's Countyin addition to the one allowed in the legislation passed in the special session that had just ended.

The bill, which O'Malley signed Wednesday morning, allows the riverfront National Harbor development to compete with Rosecroft Raceway for the license to operate aPrince George's Countycasino. The law also allows table games at all of the state's casinos in addition to slot machines.

Miller said it would be a "great idea" to create a bifurcated license under which both National Harbor and Rosecroft could offer gambling. Such a measure would require new legislation in addition to the bill that just passed, which puts the question of table games and the Prince George's casino before voters on the November ballot.

"I wish there was some way they could share the machines," Miller said.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. BakerIII said at Wednesday's bill-signing that he strongly supports National Harbor as the casino site. However, he ducked the question of whether he would oppose a second gambling site at nearby Rosecroft. Baker did say that unlike National Harbor, which is located right off the Capital Beltway and the recently widened Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Rosecroft would require extensive infrastructure improvements to host a casino.

An expansion of gambling to Rosecroft could arouse opposition from local churches because a study conducted for a county found that a casino at the track would draw a greater percentage of its customers from local communities than National Harbor.

Opening up both sites to casinos would apparently require new legislation in a future session.

A spokeswoman for O'Malley, who has never publicly displayed much enthusiasm for expanded gambling despite his backing of the just-passed legislation, threw cold water on Miller's suggestion.

"The governor, with the signing of this bill, has put this issue and we're moving forward," said Raquel Guillory, his communications director.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who worked for weeks to gather the minimum number of votes to pass the bill, said his chamber has no interest in revisiting the gambling issue any time soon.

"It's over," he said.

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