Whether voters will get the opportunity to decide on an expansion of gambling in Maryland is likely to become clearer this week after Gov. Martin O'Malley meets with key stakeholders to try and reach a consensus.
At issue is whether the state should allow an additional casino to be built in Prince George's County and whether the state should expand current gambling to include table games.
Most polls indicate that expansion to table games is something that a majority of voters in the state support. The decision on whether to allow an additional casino, however, has raised objections from the operators of the current slots operators who worry that it could drain away revenues from their facilities.
O'Malley and the state legislature have only until about the middle of next month to approve any changes in time to get them on the ballot for the November election. Changes to gambling have to be approved by voters under legislation that initially approved slots in the state.
O'Malley on Monday was scheduled to meet with Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Today, he was to meet with Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch.
Disputes over the proposed changes to gambling were given part of the blame for the legislature failing to come to a budget deal at the end of the regular session. As a result, the governor called a special session to enact revenue-generating proposals that had failed to pass. Rather than have the question of gambling expansion complicate the special session, O'Malley said that session would be limited to the state budget issues, and if an agreement could be reached on gambling he would call an additional special session to resolve that issue.
Time is running out for the governor though. If this week's meetings don't produce some sort of agreement, chances are that nothing will be done this year.
Given that it is a presidential election year, a time when more voters typically go to the polls, now is the time for putting the questions to voters of expanding both the scope of gambling and the number of casinos allowed.
Ultimately, the questions concerning expansion of gambling will have to go before voters. While the state has stumbled coming out of the gate with gambling - the third facility only opened last month - deciding whether to expand that is something that should be done this election cycle.