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County Execs Tout Gambling's Benefits to Economic Development, Education

County executives from Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties are advocating for a casino at National Harbor, adding table games and expanding casino hours around the state.

By Carl Straumsheim, Capital News Service

Using Saturday's University of Maryland Terrapins football game as a metaphor, county executives Rushern Baker III, Ike Leggett and Ken Ulman on Thursday framed the referendum on expanding gambling in Maryland as a conflict between economic development and out-of-state interests.

"Just like I want Maryland to beat West Virginia on Saturday in football, I want Maryland to beat back this out-of-state money in November," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said.

If passed, the referendum, which appears as Question 7 on the ballot, would allow a casino to open at National Harbor in Prince George's County -- the sixth casino in the state. It would also enable existing casinos to stay open around the clock and offer table games like blackjack and roulette instead of just digital representations.

Ulman stressed the initiative's impact on local education budgets as a reason why Maryland voters should cast ballots in favor of gambling expansion in November.

"We know that there is a burden to continue to be able to find the revenues to invest in our children's education," Ulman said. "This is one way to enhance the Education Trust Fund and help us accomplish that goal. It's not the only way; it's one way."

As the bill was being debated in the General Assembly, Republicans accused Gov. Martin O'Malley of giving tax breaks to gambling companies, while raising taxes on Marylanders making more than $100,000. In Prince George's County, some religious leaders worry that a casino could bring increased crime to their neighborhoods.

Attempts to reach expanded gambling opponents Thursday were unsuccessful.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III accused competing casinos in neighboring states of trying to distort the debate  by running political ads opposing the expansion in Maryland.

"Make no mistake: This is about Maryland versus West Virginia," Baker said. "People running ads against having a sixth site in Prince George's County and expanding table games are from West Virginia."

Baker also distanced himself from the idea that existing casinos in Maryland are opposing the expansion to protect their own bottom lines.

"We took care of Anne Arundel County -- made sure they're held harmless -- and other facilities. I think people are satisfied with the way the bill came out of the General Assembly," Baker said. "People in Maryland need to understand this is about protecting resources and dollars in the state."

jag September 23, 2012 at 04:47 AM
You didn't even explain how the state is ramming gambling down your throat. I can't even begin to try to understand what you're rambling about. Are you trying to spell "lose"?
jnrentz1 September 23, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Richard Rice: What corruption and collusion does Montgomery County Have? What does that have to do with gambling? Our County Executive, Mr. Leggett has made a record of supporting gambling, why not have gambling here in Montgomery County along with the attendant jobs, and revenue?
jnrentz1 September 23, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Jeff Takahashi: Why is it fortunate that the Montgomery County Council, "voted to pout out all gambling options?" Why is a casino "last thing we need?" Gambling is in Maryland. Gambling will create jobs and generate revenue. Why not have gambling in Montgomery County for those reasons? Montgomery County has a population of around one million people, why should those Montgomery County residents wishing to gamble have to travel away from Montgomery County?
Michael B. Cron September 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Jag, if all you can do is point out a spelling glitch and thank you for that. I will try to be more careful so that you can understand more succinctly what I am rambling about. Annapolis and PG County are hell bent on passing gambling (because they think it is a cure all) to try and cover-up their poor management of our tax dollars over the years (including yours if you pay taxes). Nothing more, nothing less. Please, do not let my rambling keep you from financing our state government's poor fiscal management of our tax dollars through gambling.
jag September 23, 2012 at 03:31 PM
No one is ramming anything down your throat. Chill out, vote against it if you hate the idea of people being able to make their own choices, and move on with your life.

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