Gambling panel to get consultant's numbers

A task force on a possible expansion of gambling is scheduled to receive projections Tuesday from the state's consultants on the likely impact of allowing a sixth casino in Maryland while permitting table games.

The answers the panel receives from the firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers could help its 11 members decide which actions -- if any -- they will recommend to the General Assembly and Gov.Martin O'Malley. The governor has said that if the Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion can help forge a consensus that could pass both houses of the legislature, he would call a special session July 9 to deal with the issue.

At its first meeting June 1, the group received projections from a consultant hired by the developers of National Harbor in Prince George's County, a site favored for a casino by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and County Executive Rushern Baker. They also heard dire predictions from the owner of the new Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills about the impact a National Harbor casino would have on business there.

At the time, several lawmakers on the panel said they want to hear from the state's own consultants before making up their minds whether to support a Prince George's casino. The leading proposal on the table would compensate the existing slots license holders for the increased competition by allowing table games and cutting their tax rate. National Harbor's hired expert predicted the state would take in more money and all of the casinos would gain net revenue, but Maryland Live owner David Cordish questioned the accuracy of those projections.

That, in part, is why the Pricewaterhouse Coopers findings could be important. If the numbers don't suggest the state would gain substantial revenue or that existing licensees would thrive, it could be difficult to reach an agreement that would prompt a call for a special session. A favorable forecast could add momentum to the drive for gambling expansion.

The panel, chaired by Baltimore business executive John Morton III,  is scheduled to wrap up its work and make a recommendation June 20.  It includes three senators, three delegates and four O'Malley administration officials.


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