Setback to Baker, state panel rejects new casino in PG

Prince George’s Executive Rushern Baker

Today the special commission that was charged by Governor Martin O’Malley, Speaker Michael Busch, and Senate President Mike Miller to explore finding a consensus on the hotly debated proposal of expanding casino gambling into Prince George’s County had planned to announce a deal on a plan that would be considered in a special session the week of July 9th, but those plans have been scrapped. Panel leaders announced they have not been able to reach consensus and there would be no extension in their work. That is fancy talk for saying they failed.

The proposal, which was pushed by County Executive Rushern Baker, took over the final days of the regular session of the General Assembly. Many blamed Senate President Miller for holding up budget negotiations in an attempt to push the hand of the House of Delegates but by midnight both proposals had failed to be approved. Legislators returned to Annapolis last month to resolve budget work and planned to return next month to deal with the casino proposal. News today that the commission named to draft the plan both chambers would debate failed to reach a deal seems to end those plans. Governor O’Malley had indicated he would not call another special session unless the panel was successful.

Last week officials with MGM Grand announced plans to develop a casino at Prince George’s National Harbor in what some elected officials said was another attempt to push the hand of legislators. MGM promised the deal would create more than 1,000 construction jobs and more than 4,000 jobs after the casino opened. For Prince George’s County, which struggles with job creation, that was big news. Additionally a state report released said the casino would generate more than $200 million annually in education funding for the state. Opponents to the casino point to the promises made by the lottery and said they never came to fruition. Community groups and church leaders in the county also opposed the plan saying the amount of crime and social issues the casino would create was not worth the risk.

Sources in the Prince George’s County government say the executive and his team will continue to explore ways to move forward with their plans. Any expansion in the county would first have to be approved by both the legislature and voters in a constitutional amendment.

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