Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a gambling expansion bill Wednesday morning following a tight 71-58 vote by the Maryland House early Wednesday.
The bill will allow table games like poker, blackjack and roulette at some current locations, permit construction of a new casino, and give tax breaks to Maryland's five existing casinos.
Lawmakers, called in for a special session, debated the bill for seven hours Tuesday alone. Prior to voting, the House amended the bill to allow veterans' organizations to have five instant pull-tab gambling machines at their facilities.
The state's sixth casino would be located at National Harbor in Prince George's County, but county voters would have to approve the proposed site -- and County Executive Rushern Baker believes they will.
"I feel good about our future, good about Prince George's County, and it's a great day," Baker said.
If voters say yes, the number of slots in Maryland could end up on par with the number in Las Vegas. The new casino could open in 2016.
If the ballot question passes statewide but not in Prince George's, table games would be allowed, but not a new casino.
"I'm really not in favor of casinos, but it seems like it would bring a lot of money into the county... for education," said Maryland resident Hope Davis, "...so for that reason I probably would vote for casinos."
Though supporters say the casinos could bring in up to $200 million in extra revenue a year, some aren't buying it.
"I'm not an expert, but none of the projections ever seem to be right," said Jeff Nickel, also of Prince George's County.
Nickel thinks the casino market will quickly become oversaturated, and plans to vote against the plan. "I just think that there's enough..." he said. "I think there's other things you could build in [Prince George's] County that would be more beneficial."
Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of Nevada-based MGM Resorts, has said he hopes to build an $800 million complex at National Harbor, which could provide 2,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs at the resort, he said.
Late Wednesday morning, MGM Resorts released a statement that reads in part, "The result of this special session puts Maryland on the path toward job creation and better funding for schools.... MGM Resorts wants to be a part of this community. We are fully prepared to compete for that opportunity."