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Maryland Lawmakers Discusses the Merits of Allowing Casino Table Games in the State

A proposal by two well-known Prince George's County senators to permit card games like baccarat at Rosecroft Raceway faces an uncertain future in the House of Delegates. Last week, the Maryland Senate approved Senate Bill 1035, which would have allowed voters in the state decide by a referendum on whether to permit card games at the horse racing track located Route 414 in Fort Washington.

Still, county delegates are skeptical that the bill by Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach and Senator C. Anthony Muse (D-Dist. 26) of Fort Washington will be approve in their side of the House. Del. Kris Valderrama (D-Dist. 26) of Fort Washington said on April 1st, 2010 that she thinks that the chances of it coming out of the House are minimal. Del. Valderrama supports gaming at Rosecroft, which is in her area.

Prince George's delegates dismissed a different bill by Del. Valderrama that would have permitted charity poker in the county for local fire departments and said that the Rosecroft plan is not likely to pass either. The bill had support from just twelve of the twenty-three county delegates. Gambling has been a controversial issue in the state for a number of years.

In 2008, after a decade of talks in the state legislature, state voters in Maryland approved placing slot machines at several racing tracks in Maryland in hopes of producing additional revenue for the state. So far, no group has secured an agreement to put the slot machines in use at five locations across Maryland although Rosecroft is not yet one of them.

A lot of delegates say that they want to implement slot machines first before even considering card games. Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist.47) of Mount Rainier said that it is still too early to be expanding gambling when they have not yet resolved the slots issue. But casino card game supporters said that they could be the way to revive Rosecroft, which once was a popular racing track in Maryland in the 1950's.

Although harness racing was discontinued at the racing track in 2009, the facility still employs more than two hundred people. Muse said that he will support anything that keeps jobs in the area. He said that if Rosecroft will close, a lot of people will lose their jobs and the facility will just be an eyesore. Muse's participation in the bill this year marks a complete change from his earlier voting record.

Two years ago, Sen. Muse voted against holding a referendum on the slots issue and also opposed the machines base on moral grounds. Muse said that the card games are different since they often lure "high-stakes" gamers that have extra money to gamble.

His concerns with slot machines are the "social issues" created by poor individuals placing their household budgets into the slot machines with a little probability of winning.

Muse said that he and Miller plan to lobby the members of the House to support the bill before the legislative session ends in mid-April 2010. But local officials are already wary about the senator's plan.

At a council meeting on March 23rd, 2010, Councilman Eric C. Olson (D-Dist.3) of College Park complained the whole state gets the right to choose through a vote on whether to permit or not permit card gaming in the county.

The County Council has not yet taken an official position on the bill but several members like Councilwoman Marilynn M. Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton voiced their opposition on the plan. Members of the House Ways and Means will likely hold a hearing on Senate Bill 1035 in the next two weeks.


05/05/2010 13:08 PM


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