With Maryland lawmakers approving Gov. Martin O'Malley's gambling initiative, Prince George's County could be the next area to get a casino, but some in the county do not want gambling in their community.
In Prince George’s County, one of the largest and most powerful coalitions is the faith-based community, and it’s opposed to gambling.
“We defeated the possibility of having slot machines coming into Prince George’s County but now we’re still having to fight it here we are in 2012,” said the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, pastor of Mount Nebo AME Church and the national president of the Collective Empowerment Group, a faith-based business and economic development coalition with a membership of 125 churches reaching about 175,000 people who live in Prince George’s.
“I can assure you that the faith community is very, very disappointed with the vote,” he said.
Their support is so important in Prince George’s that County Executive Rushern Baker met with them to discuss the possibility of a casino in the county.
“I’ve talked to the pastors and the faith community in Prince George’s County and I understand their opposition,” Baker said. “I told them from the very beginning I didn’t vote for slots when I was in the General Assembly, but a couple of things changed.”
Baker said that after gaming was approved in Maryland, he was then faced with either keeping it out of Prince George’s or keeping $40 million to $60 million in possible revenue in the county.
“We need a revenue stream, so if I don’t have a revenue stream coming from a destination resort and economic development then I have to go back and cut and I said that to the pastors,” Baker said.
The Collective Empowerment Group is spreading its message to vote against a casino -- an idea that will surely be echoed from pulpits across the county and beyond.
“I’ve already started reaching out to people within the Islamic community, within the Jewish community because this is something that’s going to impact all of us,” Weaver said.
Weaver said Baker and Maryland leaders aren’t being creative enough finding a sustainable revenue stream coming into the county and state, such as luring government agencies and technology.