Gambling special session in August? One Harford lawmaker says he'll boycott

The possibility of the Maryland General Assembly holding another special session next week to take up gambling expansion appears slim; however, one may still be called in August.

If so, at least one Harford legislator says he'll boycott, regardless, while another says he'll turn thumbs down on any effort to change the slots tax rate.

In late June, it appeared almost a certain that Gov. Martin O'Malley would call back legislators into special session — the second this year — July 9 to vote on a bill that could potentially expand gambling in the state.

Two weeks ago, however, a state panel couldn't come to a consensus on the matter and was split, 8-3, on a crucial decision whether to allow a casino in Prince George's County and to reduce the 67 percent tax rate on slot machine revenue.

"Now we're hearing the first or second week of August," Northern Harford Sen. Barry Glassman said Tuesday about another special session. "But we'll see. There's still a lot of talk on both sides [House and Senate]."

Glassman, a Republican, said previously that he's against adding a sixth casino at a different tax rate than the current ones.

Owners of National Harbor, the most favorable location for a casino in Prince George's County, and MGM Resorts, the probable operator, have said that at the current 67 percent tax rate they would not be able to build the kind of casino they intended at National Harbor.

"I don't think we should change the rules," Glassman said. "All the other guys [casinos] signed up for the locations and the tax rate and I don't think it's fair to add another casino at another tax rate."

Southern Harford Del. Glen Glass sent out a news release Tuesday expressing his intentions not to show up if O'Malley calls the legislators back. A Republican, Glass is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and its gambling subcommittee.

"Gambling expansion does not justify a taxpayer funded special session, for summer 2012 when it can and should be discussed in 2013," Glass said, citing a provision in the state constitution that special sessions should be called only in time of "true crisis."

"If we are called back into session, I will be working in my district and spending time with my constituents instead of blowing taxpayer money on this nonsense," Glass said, pointing out it costs $20,000 a day for the legislature to meet.

"This is nothing more than a 'get-it-done-quick' special session to avoid a full and thoughtful vetting through the regular legislative process," he added. "Certainly, Democrats and some members of my own party will nevertheless choose to participate. However, I will not be in attendance even if I am the only member that will be absent." said

As of Tuesday, Glassman said, there is no consensus with the House concerning gambling expansion.

He added that ballot language has to be submitted by mid or late August to be for a measure to be on the ballot for a statewide referendum this November.

With so much lobbying effort still going on for a casino at National Harbor in PG County, there's still a possibility of the votes coming in, he added.

O'Malley has said previously that he would only call the special legislative session if he believes the gambling bill could pass.

While the measure did receive the majority of votes within the 11-member committee studying gambling, all the votes against it came from House of Delegates members. According to The Baltimore Sun, the panel subsequently concluded that new legislation would most likely fail during a July special session.

If O'Malley decides to not hold another special session to resolve the gambling issue, the measure could not appear on the November ballot and the earliest a referendum could be held would be November 2014.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad