House Committee Will 'Tweak' Gaming Bill

"Concerns are everywhere," said Del. Frank Turner, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Gaming Law and Regulation.

A bill authorizing gambling expansion in Maryland will likely be amended, according to the chairman of the House subcommittee that is holding hearings on the legislation.

Del. Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat, initially characterized possible changes to the bill passed Friday by the Senate as minor.

"Mostly it's a lot of tweaks," said Turner, the chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Gaming Law and Regulation.

When asked what concerns his committee might have, Turner suggested the changes might be more substantive.

"I think there are concerns everywhere," Turner said. "There are all kinds of concerns and ideas. Some will be germane and others won't. I think we're going to make it a better work product than what the Senate sent over."

Turner's subcommittee, which met for 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon, is expected to meet again on Monday. Amendments to the Senate's version of the bill are expected to be discussed.

The Senate version authorizes a sixth casino location in an area of Prince George's County that includes Rosecroft Raceway and National Harbor. The bill also authorizes table games in the state.

The Senate, which completed its work Friday, is not scheduled to reconvene until 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Because the law authorizing casinos is part of the Maryland Constitution, voters would have to approve the changes in a referendum vote on Nov. 6. The fate of the sixth casino location rests solely in the hands of the voters in Prince George's County who must vote in favor of the project in order for it to move forward.

Del. Jolene Ivey, a Prince George's County Democrat, raised concerns about one Senate provision that calls for one of the seven-member gaming commission to be appointed from a jurisdiction that currently have video slots facilities.

"It could be that that one member could be from Anne Arundel County and it could be, perhaps, I'm not saying it will be, that that member wouldn't necessarily look with kindness on certain other facilities," said Ivey.

Ivey declined to elaborate on her specific concerns following the meeting. Her comments appear to be directed toward Maryland Live! Casino and its owner David Cordish.

Cordish has been critical of the proposed Prince George's County facility.

Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat, said he shared Ivey's concerns and planned to offer an amendment creating a joint House-Senate committee to oversee the gaming commission.

Also of concern to Del. Melvin Stukes is a requirement that Baltimore City's local share of table game revenues to be spent on school construction.

"We need money for school construction but I don't think we let anything supersede our number one push," said Stukes. "When we came on board with this in 2007 it was property tax [reduction] not school construction."

Baltimore City's property tax rate is $2.268 per $100 of assessed value. That's more than double the $1.10 per $100 of assessed value in Baltimore County.

After the hearing, Stukes said he believes the House will amend the Senate bill to split the city's share of table game revenue between school construction, recreation and parks and property tax relief.

Any House amendments to the bill would require approval by the Senate.

The House Ways and Means subcommittee will resume its work on the bill some time Monday morning, Turner said. A vote on the bill by the full House of Delegates might not come before Tuesday.

"I think we have a lot of work to do but we'll move through it quickly," Turner said.

Penelope Patch August 30, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I can just see the gaming folks in neighboring states having a good laugh over what they are seeing in Maryland. We have no one to blame but ourselves for voting these morons into office year after year.
Penelope Patch August 30, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Very well said! What I want to know is who came up with the idea that Maryland would own the machines and isn't that so convenient that once they are no longer needed we get them back. Sweet deal, eh?
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