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Maryland Senate To Vote On Gaming Bill Friday

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Officials in Anne Arundel County are concerned about potential loss of revenue if new casinos are approved.
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Officials in Anne Arundel County are concerned about potential loss of revenue if new casinos are approved.

There were no surprises during the first day of the special session of the Maryland General Assembly on expanded gaming. The Senate took up the bill that would expand gaming by allowing table games and sixth casino license for a facility in Prince George's County — all measures the body passed earlier this year during the regular session.

A Senate committee approved the bill Thursday afternoon, meaning a full vote is scheduled for Friday morning. 

Among the many contentious aspects of gaming expansion is the impact a Prince George's casino, likely located at National Harbor, would have on existing casinos in the state. Anne Arundel County executive John Leopold said the new casino would adversely affect the Maryland Live! casino, the largest in the state, which is located in his county.

"Just look at Perrysville: they've lost one-third of their revenue because of Maryland Live," said Leopold. "Charlestown has lost 20 percent of its market share. Clearly, National Harbor would take a big chunk of our market share."

Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker, standing next to Leopold, was quick to counter this point.

"Here's what John [Leopold] is not considering: National Harbor, being in the Washington market, will attract people from around the world," said Baker. "It will take advantage of the fact that people will come from the District, Northern Virginia, and from people visiting Washington D.C."

Senate president Mike Miller, a big supporter of expanded gaming, believes the state is missing out on money it can use for education.

"It's not a good source of money for government. There's no question about it," Miller says. "But at the same time, we have needs, and we have persons with disposable income going to neighboring states. We need to retain that money here."

Gaming expansion has stalled in the House, in part due to concerns about lowering the tax rate on casino operators. Delegates will get another crack at the bill Friday, once the Senate passes it, as is expected.

Meanwhile, gaming is not the only topic being discussed during this special session.  Several measures have been introduced regarding a state court decision that ruled pit bulls were an inherently dangerous breed of dog, raising the liability for their owners and landlords who rent to them.

"There's 33 other states that have some form of strict liability. Let's look at them and see what's worked and what hasn't," said Republican delegate Mike Smeigel of the Eastern Shore. He is the sponsor of a bill that would essentially stay the ruling on pit bulls until lawmakers come back for the regular session in January.

Smeigel expects the many pit bull bills to be combined in some form, allowing something to pass.

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