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The Special Session Opens
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August 10, 2012
The first formal act of this latest drive to expand gaming in Maryland went exactly as scripted yesterday. A Senate committee approved a bill to allow table games at the state’s five existing slots parlors and add a sixth site in Prince George’s County. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Joel McCord: The lone vote against the bill came from Ed DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat. He said he was worried about the effect on the as yet un-built casino in Baltimore as well as recently opened Maryland Live, which is in his district.
Ed DeGrange: “They’ve played by certain rules that were set up, the sightings were clear when they did their market studies to determine what type of facility they would build and now we’re changing the rules and I have concerns about that.”
McCord: Committee members added a number of amendments, one of which would direct money to school construction in Baltimore City. Baltimore Democrat Nathaniel McFadden, the committee’s vice chair, said he hopes it will sway some votes in the city’s House delegation where members have demanded increased bonding authority for school construction.
Nathaniel McFadden: “It’s an issue that’s been very important to us in the city. As an educator, as a state Senator I’ve been pushing since my time in the General Assembly for additional money for school construction. This is just another tool, we think, in the box that helps us in our goal of renovating and building new schools in the city of Baltimore.”
McCord: City schools, some of the oldest in the state, have a two billion dollar maintenance backlog. As expected, local government leaders and casino operators who stood to gain from the legislation praised it to the committee. Prince Georges county executive Rushern Baker predicted that all would benefit from a new casino in his county at National Harbor.
Rushern Baker: “I think Maryland Live! will do well, I think Baltimore city will do well, but more important the state will do well and create the revenues. I think it’s a win-win.”
McCord: But John Leopold, Anne Arundel’s County Executive, where Maryland Live is located, strongly disagreed.
John Leopold: “No, I think it’s a significant hit to Anne Arundel County in terms of jobs and revenue. You look at the Perryville experience, that’s a fire bell in the night, a warning to the rest of the state.”
McCord: The casino at Perryville lost about a third of its business to Maryland Live when it opened in June and Charlestown West Virginia lost about 20 percent of market share, he said. Governor Martin O’Malley met with Senate Democrats early in the day. Speaking to reporters he cast the bill as one to create jobs, citing the loss of 2,000 jobs at Sparrows Point Tuesday when the steel mill was sold to a liquidator.
Martin O’Malley: “This would allow us to create jobs. It would also make gaming in our state competitive so that we don’t find ourselves losing dollars to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.”
McCord: Senate Republicans scoffed at the notion the new casino would ad jobs. They introduced a package of tax cuts and reduced regulations. Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, said that package would provide real and immediate help.
E.J. Pipkin: “We lost 11000 jobs in the month of June, we just saw the closure of Sparrows Point and the liquidation of Sparrows Point and we need something more serious than just a gaming bill to be a jobs bill.”
McCord: It is unlikely, however, those bills will be considered during this session.
In other action, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a bill to blunt the effect of a recent Court of Appeals ruling that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous.” Both bills will be on the Senate floor today as the House of Delegates joins the fray.
With Karen Hosler, I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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