Miller to push slots in Prince George's County this session
*** UPDATED with reaction from the governor and speaker of the House of Delegates. ***
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he wants to expand Maryland’s fledgling slots program to Prince George’s County. And he'd like it done this year.
Miller, a Democrat, represents that part of that county and Calvert County, said he’s in discussions with Prince George’s officials and with Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Democrat, about how bring gambling to the county as a way to help save Rosecroft Raceway, in Muse’s district. Miller proposed having slots at one of three locations: Rosecroft, the National Harbor or an equestrian center in Upper Marlboro.
Muse, a reverend, said he has a “social opposition” to slots but added that he is “open to looking at all possible options” to save Rosecroft. Muse said he’d prefer to see high-stakes card games at Rosecroft, something Miller said he could also endorse.
It’s likely that either slots or card games would need to be approved by voters. In fall 2008, Maryland residents overwhelmingly voted to legalize slots at five specific sites. The state slots commission has since granted three of those licenses; two sites, on the Eastern Shore and in Cecil County, could open within the year.
Muse said gambling in Prince George would fall right in line with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” agenda for this legislative session. The two senators said they have yet to craft a bill or discuss any plans with the House of Delegates, which is led by Speaker Michael E. Busch, a longtime slots opponent.
*** UPDATE ***
Busch and O'Malley, both Democrats, reacted to Miller's plan in interviews this afternoon. Both said they were taken aback by a new push for slots in Prince George's but reserved judgment until they hear from county leaders and see a specific plan.
"No one from Prince George's County stepped up to the plate" to ask for slots during the session in which lawmakers approved a plan to present to voters, Busch said. "In fact, that county was adamantly opposed at the time."
The governor also noted that the "extensive debate" on slots in 2007 did not include Prince George's County because elected leaders there opposed slots in their communities. Asked about Miller's comments this morning, O'Malley said, "This is the first I've heard of it."
He said he is "not looking to go backward" this legislative session to discuss issues that have already been settled.