A measure to expand gambling in Maryland has prompted the most expensive campaign in state history, financed on both sides by competing casino operators. While both sides debate whether allowing blackjack and poker would create jobs and boost education funding, Kojo asks what a high-end casino at National Harbor would mean for Prince George's County and the region.
Map: Maryland Casinos
This map takes a look at Maryland casinos that are already open to the public (green), licensed but not yet built (yellow), and potential location for a new casino if Question 7 on the Maryland ballot passes (red).
View Maryland Casinos in a larger map
Maryland Gaming Expansion: The Making Of Question 7
With budget deficits raising election stakes, Maryland is turning to expanded gambling as a potential economic elixir for revenue and job creation. One of those proposed measures is a referendum on the statewide November ballot, better known as Question 7.
If passed, the referendum would legalize full table games, increase the number of operable video lottery machines from 15,000 to 16,000 and allow the construction of a casino in Prince George's County.
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation to put Question 7 on the ballot during an August 2012 special session of the general assembly.
The ballot also includes a clause that requires a majority of Prince George's County voters to approve the measure in order for a license to be issued for the sixth Maryland casino. The designated area for the casino encompasses National Harbor and Rosecroft Raceway.
Despite campaign spending by supporters and detractors of the measure exceeding $35 million this year, talk about expanding gambling legislation is nothing new to Maryland lawmakers.
According to the Baltimore Business Journal, State Senator Katherine Klausmeier, Delegate John Olszewski and House of Delegates gaming subcommittee chair Frank Turner considered a proposal to increase the number of slot machines in Maryland in December 2010. The discussion also included legalizing table games in order to meet the demands of out-of-state competition.
Turner has since spoken out in opposition to the bill he once defended on the House floor.
“Had I not been chairperson of the Subcommittee on Gaming and the floor leader that had to defend the bill (to expand gambling in Maryland) for over six hours and fight off over 50 amendments, I would have voted against the bill,” Turner wrote in a 2012 letter to the Columbia Flier.
In 2008, Maryland voters approved Question 2, a referendum to place up to 15,000 slot machines in designated locations of Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester and Allegany Counties, as well as Baltimore City. Analysts expected all five casinos to open by 2011. To date, only Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, Ocean Downs in Worcester County and, most recently, Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County are open and fully operational.