Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BREAKING: Maryland Democratic Leaders Reach Tentative Gambling Deal // August 8th Proposed for Special Session?

UPDATE: An anonymous legislator has indicated to Maryland Juice that they have been asked to clear the week of August 9-14. Additionally, news outlets are reporting that House Speaker Mike Busch is expecting Gov. O'Malley to call for a special session (see ie: Washington Examiner & Baltimore Sun).

GAMBLING SESSION FORTHCOMING: Maryland Juice is confirming that the State's Democratic leadership appears to have a struck a deal for a special gambling session. Governor Martin O'Malley, House Speaker Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller will likely imminently announce that around August 8th they will call Senators and Delegates back to Annapolis to try and place a gambling referendum on the ballot this November. I am receiving cautionary notes that the fragile deal could fall apart, so take these details with a grain of salt. But so far, it looks like things are moving forward. Sources indicate several issues are expected to be addressed in the new gambling push:

1) Adding a Prince George's County casino, presumably at the National Harbor site
2) Adding table games to Maryland's casinos
3) Transferring control of Maryland's slot machines from the State to the casino operators
4) Establishing new tax rates for slot machine operators, potentially through a gaming commission

A source familiar with the talks indicates that early drafts of the gaming bill addressed revenues/local aid, tax rates, and questions of timing. A sticking point in earlier discussions was whether or not to lower slot machine taxes for casino operators from the current 67% rate. It is unclear whether the deal that has been struck has established a new rate or whether the question will be deferred for a gaming commission to decide. We will know soon enough....

MARYLAND JUICE DISCUSSES GAMBLING ON NEWS CHANNEL 8: Coincidentally, Maryland Juice appeared on News Channel 8 this morning to discuss gambling politics, alongside Delegate Jay Walker of Prince George's County. Mr. Walker predicted that a session would indeed be held, and he appears to be correct. However, this morning I noted that many Montgomery County officials who I've contacted have not been contacted by leadership about the session. This may mean that Democratic leaders are prepared to call a session without their votes lined up. See my comments below:

COUNTY DELEGATIONS CUTTING DEALS FOR GAMBLING VOTES: If you read local news coverage, there are hints about what deals legislators have cut in order to move gambling in Maryland. One source noted that Baltimore City officials are seeking on the order of $320 million and other funding protections. Meanwhile, The Gazette reports that Montgomery County officials are dismayed to see that our County is only slated to receive $5 million in additional RideOn funding in exchange for the MoCo Delegation's support (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Melanie Wenger, county director of intergovernmental relations, briefed council members Tuesday morning about the anticipated session, which could happen as early as Aug. 4.

Should a bill go before the General Assembly, Montgomery’s delegation votes could play a significant part in the outcome as Wenger estimated about 10 members remain persuadable on the casino issue....

During the briefing, Wenger said she was under the impression that the county's ask would center on transportation, specifically an operational subsidy for the Ride On bus system.

Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park questioned who decided on more Ride On subsidy.

“Ride On operating subsidy? That is all we are going to settle for?” he asked. “We’re asking for too little....”

More on Maryland gambling very soon!

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