Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Commissioners meet with House delegation, discuss gaming bill

Carroll County nonprofits that want to raise money by sponsoring card games and casino nights are hoping that their sixth attempt to get a gaming bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly will be their lucky one.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners and the county's House of Delegates Delegation met Tuesday to discuss the county's legislative proposals. While the 2014 proposals included everything from slowing down the implementation of new education standards to salary increases, the meeting focused on gaming.
The proposal is to amend the state's criminal law article in Carroll to allow certain qualified organizations to sponsor card games and casino nights for charitable purposes. This will be the sixth time in seven legislative sessions that the bill will be introduced to the General Assembly in Annapolis.
In some years, the House passed the legislation but it received no support in the Senate. In other years, the Senate passed it but it died in the House. The Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association has been the primary organization pushing to get the bill passed.
Neal Roop, county liaison for CCVESA, said the legislation, if passed, would be a big help to volunteer fire companies that have struggled to raise money in the tough economy. The bill Roop is hoping to get passed during the upcoming 90-day legislative session is the same as previous versions of the bill.
Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 9B, said if the bill is passed in the legislature, it'll either be as an individual bill or as a statewide opt-in bill. In the past, House Speaker Michael Busch did not support passing gaming bills, she said. But, Krebs said, he may be open to the idea following the passage of expanded gaming in Maryland in 2012.
"We are committed, all of us, to getting this passed," Krebs said.
One of the best aspects of the local gaming bill is that for-profit gaming operators are not allowed to sponsor the gaming nights, Krebs said. Under the proposed bill, only amateur athletic, charitable, civic, fraternal, religious, volunteer fire and war veterans organizations could apply for a gaming night permit. Hospitals would also be allowed to apply.
Krebs said there has been a lot of push back against bills that would allow "roving casinos."
Last week, Sen. Joseph Getty, R-District 5, sent a letter to the board of commissioners urging it to adopt a new strategy to get the bill past the House. It is likely, Getty wrote, that an alternative statewide bill will be considered that would permit jurisdictions to choose whether or not they would allow charitable organizations to sponsor gaming.
"Obviously, the statewide enabling legislation could be very different from the provisions desired by the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association," Getty wrote. "A new strategy is necessary to insure that the basic provisions included in the CCVESA draft legislation are part of the deliberations of the House debate on the statewide bill."
Krebs said the House delegation will develop its own strategy and the Carroll County Senate Delegation will develop their strategy to ensure the bill is passed next year.
The commissioners will meet with the Senate delegation in January to discuss the county's legislative proposals. In January, the House and Senate delegations will individually decide which of the county proposals they will submit to the legislature in 2014.