Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller welcomedPrince George's County ExecutiveRushern L. Baker III's support for a casino in the county Friday but rejected Baker's opposition to considering Rosecroft Raceway as one of two possible sites.
The Senate chief also reaffirmed his position that an expansion of gambling in Prince George's is necessary to raise money for a $600 million plan to rebuild a financially troubled county-owned hospital and to transform it into a teaching institution affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System.
On Thursday, Baker came out in support of a $1 billion, Las Vegas-style casino -- complete with table games, 4,750 slot machines, entertainment and fine dining -- at the National Harbor complex on the Potomac River near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The county executive, a Democrat, also rejected any link between casino gambling and the memorandum of understanding he reached with Gov.Martin O'Malley last year under which the state, the university system and the county would share the cost of rebuilding Prince George's Hospital Center.
Miller, a Calvert County Democrat whose district includes part of Prince George's, insisted Friday that Rosecroft should remain in contention as a casino site.
"When you have one bidder, all of a sudden the numbers start to change on you," he said. Miller also noted that Rosecroft is already a site that allows gambling on horse races.
Miller also stuck by a provision in a Senate bill he is backing that would tie the opening of a casino to the financing of the hospital deal.
"The only reason the hospital's in there is that Prince George's County is totally and absolutely broke," Miller said. "Health care is all-impoortant and it doesn't come free."
Baker agreed that the hospital is "vital" but said the money can be found with or without approval of a new casino -- a measure that faces steep hurdles in the General Assembly.
"The reason I'm asking the delegation to support this is not because of the hospital," he said. We're going to get the money for the hospital."
Baker said he wants to use the expected $50 million a year in new revenue from the casino for public safety, economic development and housing stabilization efforts.