Gambling Special Session No Sure Bet
Baltimore City delegation isn't set on special session for expanded gambling yet, could hinder plans for a Prince George's County casino.
This afternoon word broke that a deal was close for a Special Session of the Maryland General Assembly to put expanded table gambling up to the voters, but that may not be the case.
Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, D-District 40, who was at meetings today with House Speaker Michael Busch, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and 10 other members of the delegation said a deal hasn’t been brokered.
"No I haven’t heard that, and to be quite honest with you, the Baltimore delegation hasn’t been pitched anything of any value to make us vote for this," Tarrant said.
Talks of a special session have continued since the spring, after the General Assembly failed to come to a consensus on expanding gambling particularly into Prince George's County where politicians and developers have proposed a billion dollar casino at National Harbor in Oxon Hill.
But on Wednesday evening The Baltimore Sun reported Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-District 43, said after a meeting with Busch that a special session was likely to be convened in early August.
McIntosh did not immediately respond to attempts by Patch to contact her.
Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said she could not confirm that a special session is likely.
Sources in the House familiar with negotiations on the bill said a special session appeared likely for the week of Aug. 8 and could last six days. Negotiations have intensified as elected officials in Prince George's County have pushed for a resolution that would bring an additional casino to the county despite objections from the Baltimore delegation.
Earlier this month McIntosh, during a meeting with the York Road Partnership, said the city’s delegation held the cards when it came to deciding if there was going to be a special session on expanding gambling.
"Baltimore City delegates are not going to vote for the sixth site it if short changes Baltimore City," McIntosh said at the meeting. "They can’t pass it without our votes."
During the meeting McIntosh expressed doubt that a special session would happen, noting that the deadline to get the measure on the ballot was Aug. 20 and that she intended to be on vacation during the early part of the month, and had no intention of canceling those plans.
Tarrant said that so far there had not been a compromise presented to the city’s delegation that would make them re-consider their opposition to the proposal.
He said the city delegation wants to make sure that money from a proposed sixth casino in Prince George’s County would be diverted to school construction in Baltimore City.
Tarrant said the major hang up isn’t about allowing table games, but protecting the city from losses to its proposed casino because of a sixth casino at National Harbor.
"We would vote for table games, without even thinking about it, in the blink of an eye we’d vote for table games," Tarrant said.
Tarrant's position comes as business at Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County continues to swell. An additional 531 slots have been approved at the site this week, accoridng to the Maryland Lottery. Including Maryland Live, casinos in Perryville and Ocean Downs have generated $297.5 million in gaming revenues since 2010, according to the Maryland Lottery.
Still, not everyone is enamored with the proposal to add another casino.
Del. Jill Carter, D-District 41, said that she would prefer the issue be dealt with next year during the regular session, because a casino in Prince George’s County couldn’t possibly be online before 2016.
"I’ll go [to a special session] kicking and screaming," Carter said.
Political reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this article.