Lawmakers are dealing with amendments to the expanded gambling bill.
Legislators continued their work Monday on a bill to expand gambling in Maryland. Lawmakers have gathered in Annapolis for a Special Session to deal with this issue.
The measures passed last week by the State Senate would allow for the opening of a sixth slots casino in Prince George's County, and permit table games, such as blackjack.
The House Ways and Means Committee heard amendments to the legislation on Monday which would increase the amount of money the "Maryland Live!" casino in Anne Arundel County would receive, as well as one planned for Baltimore city. Each would pay 8% less in taxes to the state. The State of Maryland collects 67% tax from slots casinos in Maryland.
Any changes that are made during the Special Session taking place in Annapolis would need to go before the voters in a referendum in November.
Like a number of lawmakers, Frederick County Delegate Patrick Hogan says this Special Session is a waste of time and taxpayers' money. "It could have been taken care of during the regular session, but that didn't happen. And just like every other bill that fails in the regular session, you just have to take it up the next year," he says. "Unfortunately, this was a bill that the President of the Senate really cared about. So now we're back here."
And Hogan says it looks like this Special Session could be a bust. "What I'm really surprised about is that the Special Session was called by the governor and the legislative leadership without an agreement set up yet," says Hogan. That could mean lawmakers could go home without anything to show for their efforts, he says.
If that happens, and lawmakers take up this issue when they come back in January, 2013 for the regular session, any gambling expansion would not go before the voters until 2014. But Hogan says that gives citizens in the state enough time to debate this issue. A Special Session lasting less than a week is not sufficient time for that discussion, says Hogan. "It's such a shortened time frame. So we don't have the regular debate, the regular process, that we normally would. So I think the public loses out in that regard," he says.
The governor and legislative leaders wanted to get this bill passed before August 20th, in order to get it on the referendum ballot for November, 2012.