Special Session: Senate passes bill to expand gambling
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 09:02

House still in debate as of Tuesday night

by Bill Gates

    The Maryland House of Delegates was discussing the expanded gambling bill passed by the Senate and voting on amendments when The Eagle went to press on Tuesday night.
    The version of the bill passed by the Senate on Friday would add table games — such as poker, blackjack and roulette — to the five existing Maryland casinos as well as add a sixth casino in Prince George’s County.
   

The bill, Senate Bill 1, passed by the Senate by a 28-14 vote.
    Sen. Norman R. Stone (6th District), voted in favor of the bill.
    Gov. Martin O’Malley called the legislature into a special session to discuss expanded gambling last week so that any proposed changes can be added to the November ballot.
    According to state law, any changes to gambling must be approved by a vote of Maryland residents.
    The House had approved two amendments to the bill as of Tuesday.
    One amendment will allow up to five electronic bingo machines at VFW posts on the state’s western shore (i.e., every county west of the Chesapeake Bay).
    The other amendment would increase the vendor take for lottery agents, helping restore revenue to stores that sell lottery tickets and Keno.
    “We’re working on the bill, making sure people understand it,” Del. John Olszewski Jr. (6th District) said on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re putting in things relevant to gambling, things that will benefit our constituents.”
    Olszewski described the two amendments adopted up to that point as “the first of many” to the bill.
    The House was expected to reach a decision on the bill Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
    The bill would then go back to the Senate for approval of the House amendments and consideration of any other changes the House may have made in the bill.
    If necessary, a conference committee would be called to work out a version for approval by both the House and Senate.
    Other parts of the bill include increased tax breaks for the casino operators, bringing the tax rate down from 67 per cent to 51 per cent for the Maryland Live casino in Arundel Mills and the planned casino in Baltimore City.