Maryland House Speaker: Gambling Discussion Still Open

A day after a workgroup said it could not reach consensus on the issue at this time, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch said the door is still open for further discussion on expanding gambling in the state, the Associated Press reported.
The speaker, who held two separate availabilities with reporters, said in the first gathering that House members on the panel had very strong feelings against lowering the state's 67 percent tax to accommodate a casino in Prince George's County.

Then, reporters were summoned back to the speaker's office, and Busch said he wanted to underscore that the workgroup was “98 percent in agreement,” except for the tax issue, and that additional progress could be made for Gov. Martin O'Malley to call a special session next month.

In Annapolis Wednesday, the three state gaming task force members from the House of Delegates voted against expanding gambling from five to six sites or letting casinos keep a bigger share of the profits to offset the effects of competition from a casino at National Harbor.

"I talked to the governor yesterday about the commission,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said. “My recommendation to the governor is that we call the special session, that a majority of the commission, eight of the members, agreed to the majority of what was recommended."

Unless Rushern Baker can convince the governor to call a special session by Aug. 20, time will run out and the gaming initiative will not be put to voter referendum on November's ballot and will have to be held until 2014.

Meanwhile, the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council fears a casino at National Harbor will cause traffic to rise and home values to fall.

"The day after gambling is announced in Prince George's County, put your house on the market and get out because it will have reached its peak value and will have no place to go but down,” William Cavitt said.

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