Md. Slots Panel Member: Consider Legalized Casinos

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    Maryland should consider legalizing "true casinos" that could include table games like blackjack and craps instead of just slot machines, a member of the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission said Friday.

    D. Bruce Poole, an attorney from Washington County and former member of the House of Delegates, suggested the idea during a meeting of the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission.

    To legalize table games like blackjack or craps in Maryland, the state's voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment.

    Poole cited not only the state's current fiscal problems due to the recession, but also Maryland's large structural deficit, in which the state is regularly spending more money than it receives in revenues, as reasons why the state should think bigger about expanded gambling.

    "We need to talk about how to get ahead of the curve ... because we have a dire need for revenue," Poole said at a commission meeting convened to suggest potential changes to the state's slot machine law.

    Poole also noted that neighboring states already have approved table games or have started moving in that direction.

    "The other competitors are simply outstripping us," Poole said. "They're ahead of us."

    West Virginia already has approved table games.

    Poole also said table games are likely to attract wealthier clientele to Maryland facilities, where they could spend money not only on gambling but also on hotels and restaurants.

    "I don't want to see the poor milked, but I wouldn't mind milking the wealthy," Poole said.

    Maryland still has yet to turn on a single one of 15,000 possible slot machines approved in a previous constitutional amendment in 2008. However, three licenses have been awarded for three sites, and slot machines could come online in the state later this year. The two likely to open by early fall include the Ocean Downs horse racing track on Maryland's Eastern Shore near Ocean City and a location off Interstate 95 in Cecil County.