The fight to bring slots and table games to Prince George's County, Md., took an important step Friday.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker took his case of support for gaming in the county to the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, painting a picture of a much-needed revenue stream that would be fed by gaming at a time when most county agencies have been told to cut their budgets by 5 percent. He cited the local infrastructure is a direct beneficiary from increased revenue to the state.
“I know for those who are from Prince George’s County, if you look at 210 in county is in desperate need of some help as a state highway, but we need to make repairs there and expand it,” Baker said.
He intimated to the committee that a high-end facility -- like the Las Vegas-style casino proposed for National Harbor -- is the best prospect.
“I don’t know if I would call it Vegas on the Potomac, but a very nice facility that will attract people not only in the Washington region but worldwide,” he said.
Other sites on tap for gaming -- like Baltimore and Arundel Mills -- would not be hurt by a National Harbor casino. Delegate Melvin Stukes, a committee member from Baltimore, agreed with that, but he has other concerns.
“There will be some other questions asked, and one of the main ones is going to be the last one they asked about minorities,” he said. “Not participation, I want to see some ownership.”
There is a strong opposition from Prince George’s County clergy -- not only for moral reasons, but also for fiscal ones.
“I know people that have Lotto bills, if you can believe that,” said Bishop Joseph H. Thomas, of Solid Rock Faith-Based Community Center. “They get hooked up with the people that sell the lottery tickets and then they pay at payday. They go pay their bill up, but they haven’t hit. So that means when they pay up their bill, some child is getting less groceries, less clothes, whatever.”
“Whether you want to gamble or not gamble, that’s a moral decision you can make for yourself,” said Jeff Guido, of the Maryland pipefitters union. “But you need to create the jobs, good-paying jobs.”
In addition to National Harbor, Rosecroft Raceway could become the home of a big gaming facility in the county. The state gaming commission ultimately makes the decision about where a casino or slots parlor will go.
The state Senate could take up the gaming bill next week. If a site in Prince George’s County is selected, voters would then have to approve the plan in a referendum.