Three county executives urge support for gambling expansion

County leaders from three of Maryland's largest jurisdictions stood side-by-side in Montgomery County urging voters to support gambling expansion.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker -- one of the staunchest supporters of gambling in the last year -- was joined by Montgomery County's Ike Leggett and Howard County's Ken Ulman.

Their message was nearly identical to the MGM Resorts International-backed advertising campaign: More gambling in Maryland will bring additional jobs and tax revenue for schools.

"This is about education and it is about jobs," said Ulman, who has not previously spoken publicly in support of gambling. "This is one way to enhance the education trust fund."

Leggett talked about financial benefits to the state. "We need to resolve this deficit as quickly as possible and there is an on-going need for jobs," Leggett said. "Large numbers of Montgomery County residents go to West Virginia to gamble," he said. 

He acknowledged that he has previously opposed gambling. Now, he believes that gambling in Maryland "should be done right" -- which, he said, includes Vegas-style table games and a Prince George's casino.

Also each leader blasted the opposition, which is backed by Penn National Gaming, as an out-of-state gambling company trying to protect its interests. "This is about Maryland v. West Virginia," said Baker. Penn National's Charles Town casino targets the Washington, DC market and would be hurt by new competition.

Maryland's General Assembly voted in August to add a sixth casino, to be built in Prince George's County, and allow table games like poker at all of them. In order for the law to take effect, voters must ratify it.

Opponents, including former Prince George's County Del. Gerron Levi, say the leaders are being hoodwinked by MGM, which wants to build the Prince George's County casino.

"This is a grand deception of the public," Levi said.

She cast doubt on the idea the any of the new revenues would actually go to schools. And she said that the new jobs would be mostly temporary and low paying positions. "The jobs are a ruse," she said.

And, Levi predicted that a new casino in Prince George's would have hidden costs -- the county, for example, would have to pay for road improvements.

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