Rushern Baker addresses a crowd supporting the Maryland gambling expansion referendum in Prince George's County on election night.
Voters in Maryland approved expanding gambling in the state, allowing table games like poker, as well as the construction of a sixth casino in Prince George's County. The measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent — likely due to record campaign spending on the ballot question.
When Marylanders first voted to allow gambling in the state four years ago, it was a landslide. Yesterday, when they approved expanding the industry, the margin was much slimmer — possibly because of the brutal, months-long advertising war waged to garner their votes this year. Each side spent more than $40 million, and each was funded by a rival casino company.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley supported the measure, as did his deputy, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.
"We need those dollars that are going to be spent anyway for gaming, we need them spent in Maryland so we can fund our schools, our law enforcement, our firefighters, but mostly for education," Brown said Tuesday night.
The schools argument was a prominent one made by casino proponents during the campaign. Maryland gambling revenue going to education will total an estimated $200 million per year by the end of the decade. But opponents say lawmakers are likely to raid those education dollars to spend elsewhere.
The news of the passage prompted celebration in Prince George's County Tuesday night, with fireworks over the Potomac River as supporters celebrated the passage of the gaming measure.
"Prince George's County, you made us proud tonight," said county executive Rushern Baker. Baker told the crowd that the new Vegas-style casino, which will most likely be built at National Harbor, will create jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
"This is not just about table games and slot machines. This is about high-end shopping, high end restaurants, and high end entertainment," Baker says. "That means millions of people who visit the Washington region will now come to Prince George's and spend money. What could be better."
The new casino will mean an additional $16 million in revenue for the county beginning in 2017, according to state legislative analysts.
The measure also authorizes table games like poker and roulette at casinos around Maryland, a move aimed at beating back competition from casinos in neighboring states.