Busch sets out four principles for gambling bill

House Speaker Michael E. Busch sent out an email Wednesday evening to his 97 fellow Democrats laying out his a framework for gambling expansion legislation and setting a schedule for the next few days.

First and foremost: The speaker says that adding a new casino must "generate significant new revenue" to the state. Reading between the lines, this means that current operators can't expect a massive tax reduction: Doing so would eat deeply into the state's revenue from gambling.

Busch also brings up the idea of "developing an Internet gaming component" to the state's program. Busch floats this idea in the context of keeping Maryland's gambling program competitive with surrounding states. It is idea in which The Cordish Cos. have expressed interest, but has so far not been a serious part of the gambling expansion debate.

Busch also notes that he wants to ensure "reinvestment" in the gambling facilities. It's unclear what mechanism would be used to do this, but it is also a new idea that has not been widely discussed. And, as he has said in the past, he expresses a desire to allow table games like poker and blackjack.

The speaker also notes that he wants counties that have casinos to be "held harmless" by the introduction of a sixth site. And he says that Prince George's County voters should have the final say over whether or not to allow a casino there.

The speaker said that he plans to meet this week with leaders from the House Ways and Means Committee, which will oversee the gambling expansion as well as member of the governor's workgroup on expanding gambling.

Next week, he said the House will convene late on Thursday. And the House Ways and Means Committee will hold their bill hearing on Friday.

"There are a number of private interests impacted by proposed legislation," Busch wrote. "As a caucus, we will focus on the public interest and ensuring the best product for the state."