Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the state’s long-contested gaming expansion bill into law last month, after a special legislative session ironed out the remaining differences between House and Senate legislation.
The revised bill now faces Maryland voters, who will have to approve the expansion in a statewide referendum on the November ballot.
The final compromise authorizes a sixth Maryland casino for Prince George’s County, near the Washington, D.C. border, with the specific site to be determined by a new Gaming Commission created by the law—most likely either the National Harbor project or Rosecroft Raceway. The casino will have 3,000 slots and table games.
The legislation also authorizes table games for all Maryland casinos, at a compromise revenue tax of 20 percent (the original Senate legislation had tables taxed at 10 percent, a major source of objection from the House), and provides breaks and incentives for all casinos on the slot tax.
Under the compromise bill, all casinos would have their slot tax reduced, provided they pledge to use the savings for capital improvements. The Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County would get an 8 percent tax break under the bill, and Harrah’s Baltimore would have 7 percent slashed from its slot revenue tax. Hollywood Casino Perryville would get a 5 percent break; Ocean Downs and Rocky Gap, 10 percent each.
All casinos would get a tax break for taking over purchase and ownership of the actual slot machines from the state—an 8 percent revenue tax cut for Maryland Live!, 6 percent for all others.
Newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun immediately assailed the plan as a “giveaway” to casino owners, and anti-gaming groups have already begun what stands to be a contentious campaign leading to the statewide vote in November.