It wasn't exactly crickets chirping, but the response to Harford County Executive David Craig's casino proposal from other elected officials was not overly enthusiastic.

Some wondered why Craig was suddenly supportive of gambling for Harford after opposing it when the potential presented itself six years ago.

The county executive testified in Annapolis Tuesday about his desire for a possible riverboat casino to help the county offset the steep cost of teacher pensions and other rising education costs.

Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents northern Harford County, suspects political motives.


"Like" exploreharford's Facebook page

"I think this whole last-minute push on the gaming issue is really more about his gubernatorial strategy than the practical politics of getting gambling in Harford County," Glassman, who is expected to run for county executive in 2014 when Craig will reach his two-term limit, said Wednesday.

The state's work group on expanding gambling has been in a major debate over allowing gambling in Prince George's County, and Glassman said there is "no way" another casino so close to the Hollywood Casino Perryville would be allowed.

"You are talking five minutes [away], and they are having a huge debate whether to add one in Prince George's County," he said. "I just don't think the whole thing is very practical."

Glassman admitted the premise of the original slots legislation and how it was put in the Constitution "is really flawed," but nevertheless does not think it is fair to the people who signed up for the original casino sites, "the folks who played by the rules."

Different views on different shores

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, for one, thinks the idea makes sense. As Havre de Grace has the most significant waterfront in the county, it would be the obvious location for a riverboat casino.

"Personally, I would look at it," Dougherty said. "I certainly think it's something that would benefit Havre de Grace."

Dougherty said he and Craig had talked about the casino idea earlier.

"Of course the jury would still be out. I would probably have a lot of questions, but just to get it started, the approach that the county executive is using is probably the proper approach," he said.

Dougherty does not think a Harford casino would negatively affect Hollywood Casino Perryville, the state's first slots venue which has been open since September 2010.

"It's a completely different venue," he said, referring to the riverboat idea.

Perryville Mayor Jim Eberhardt disagreed, however.

He said the state is discussing the impact of a Prince George's County casino on Baltimore, and noted Hollywood Casino is already feeling the impact of the new casino at Arundel Mills that just opened.

A billboard for the Arundel Mills has already popped up on Route 40 near Havre de Grace.

"I just thought it was very close and it would certainly impact the casinos we have now," Eberhardt said of Craig's proposal. "I think it would impact and dilute the market a little bit."

Perryville and Cecil County are already reaping millions from the local share of revenue generated by the Perryville casino. Harford officials, including Craig, had an opportunity six years ago to pitch for a casino on their side of the Susquehanna. Most, however, seemed relieved when Cecil County officials said they would welcome gambling in their county.