When the state legislature legalized slot machine gambling in 2007 and proposed locations for five casinos, it operated under the assumption that most patrons would come from areas within a 50-mile radius of each facility.

Under that assumption, Laurel residents will fall in the market area for half of the state's casinos if the General Assembly passes legislation, and voters affirm it, allowing a sixth facility to be built at National Harbor in  Prince George's County.

In addition to National Harbor, Laurel is within 50 miles of the Maryland Live casino that was scheduled to open June 6 at Arundel Mills and a casino planned for downtown Baltimore.

The proposed sixth casino and the legalization of table game gambling at all the sites was a subject of controversy in the 2012 General Assembly session. Some lawmakers have said the gambling issue is what prevented the legislature from passing a balanced budget before it adjourned April 9, prompting the need for the special session held last month.


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Now, Gov.Martin O'Malleyhas impaneled an 11-member work group to consider gaming expansion. During its first meeting Friday, June 1, which lasted more than five hours, the panel received a presentation from the Department of Legislative Services and testimony from operators of the state's existing and planned slots facilities.

If the work group, which is scheduled to meet again June 12 and June 20, can reach consensus in favor of expanding gambling, O'Malley said he will call a special session the week of July 9 so the General Assembly can pass legislation in time for the issue to be placed on the November ballot.

Maryland Live closest to Laurel

Whether or not a facility is built at National Harbor, the closest casino for most Laurel residents will be Maryland Live at Arundel Mills. The $500 million facility, developed by Baltimore-based developer Cordish Co., was scheduled to open June 6 with 3,200 slot machines.

The casino is authorized to have 4,750 slot machines, a number it plans to have in operation by the end of the year. That will make Maryland Live the third-largest slots casino in the country, behind two facilities in New York.

On Friday, David Cordish, president and chairman of the Cordish Co., told the work group that he built the massive facility under the premise that there would not be another casino south of Anne Arundel County, at least in the foreseeable future.

"Adding a new gaming site has never been done in the history of the United States ... until the (state's) initial designees are open and steady," he said.

Maryland Live is the third casino to open in Maryland. Hollywood Casino in Perryville opened in September 2010 with 1,500 slot machines, followed in January 2011 by the casino at Ocean Downs racetrack on the Eastern Shore, which has 800 slot machines.

A license for a facility with 850 slots adjacent to the Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort in western Maryland was awarded in April.

Caesars Entertainment, the sole company to bid on the Baltimore location, is still awaiting approval for the license. At the work group meeting Friday, Caesars CEO Gary Loveman expressed support for gambling expansion.

While he expects the Baltimore facility would lose 20 percent of its slots revenue to a casino inPrince George's County, Loveman said that loss would be offset by revenue from table games and the lower tax rate operators would have to pay on slots, as proposed in the original Senate legislation.

"When we net that out, that's a deal we like," Loveman said.

Gambling discussed in General Assembly

Multiple versions of legislation and ideas regarding the possibility of a Prince George's County casino and legalization of table game gambling were floated during the 2012 session.

District 23 Sen.DouglasJ.J. Peters, a Democrat who represents South Laurel and is an alternate member of the work group, was the lead sponsor of the original Senate bill, which would have reduced the tax the state collects on slots revenue from 67 percent to 60 percent.

During the work group meeting, District 13 Del. Frank Turner, a Democrat who represents North Laurel and heads the House subcommittee that vets gambling-related legislation, said any reduction to the tax will hurt the areas that are earmarked to benefit from it, including public education, horse racing purses and women- and minority-owned business.