Baltimore mayor, delegation leader don’t agree on gambling

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the leader of the city’s delegation to the House of Delegates share a common interest in Charm City’s well-being.

But Rawlings-Blake and Del. Curtis S. Anderson, both Democrats, apparently aren’t sharing much else these days.

While the mayor flanked Gov. Martin O’Malley as he announced a special session of the General Assembly in which table games could be legalized at state casinos and another could be authorized in Prince George’s County, Anderson said he was “disappointed” the special session was called.

He added that he didn’t understand why Rawlings-Blake was so willing to support the expansion of casino gambling.

“I wish I knew, I wish she’d tell me,” Anderson said. “I’m the chairman of the delegation and I haven’t spoken to her since I saw her at a baseball game about three weeks ago.”

Ryan O’Doherty, the mayor’s spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that Anderson and other members of the delegation did indeed speak with Rawlings-Blake when O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, met with city lawmakers in a closed meeting on July 18.

O’Doherty added that the mayor had been in contact with legislators “often” in the last two weeks.

But Anderson maintains that he wasn’t on the mayor’s call list.

“She hasn’t called me, I haven’t called her,” he said.

Rawlings-Blake supports expanding the state’s casino gambling program because the legalization of table games would bring additional jobs, and potentially more tax revenue, to a city casino. A Caesars Entertainment Corp.-led group could be awarded Baltimore’s slots license on Tuesday.

Anderson, though, wants additional sweeteners for Baltimore, like the ability for the city to borrow more money for school construction and improvements.

The city delegation’s chairman said he doesn’t understand why the mayor wouldn’t leverage her support to get more goodies for Baltimore.

“If she’s on board, I don’t know why she thinks we’d just jump on board,” Anderson said. “Why would you give away an important position like this?”

Eye Opener: Special session details coming

Gov. Martin O’Malley and the presiding officers of the General Assembly will brief reporters Friday morning on the status of a special session on gambling.

It is expected that O’Malley will call for the session to be held next month.

Here’s a few other headlines:

Eye Opener: O’Malley launches federal PAC

Gov. Martin O’Malley could call a special General Assembly session for August in a matter of days, according to House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

The legislature would consider expanding the state’s casino gambling program during that session. Legislation has to be passed before Aug. 20 so language can be put on the ballot in a fall referendum.

Here’s a few other headlines:

Get your milk and toilet paper ready for special session

Del. Curtis S. Anderson knows how to deliver a line.

The Democratic chairman of Baltimore’s delegation to the House of Delegates has become in recent weeks the most vocal commentator on a special session in which the General Assembly is expected to consider expanding the state’s casino gambling program.

Wednesday, after House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, told leaders in his chamber that a special session could be called soon, Anderson didn’t disappoint.

“I think that right now there are many legislators who are going to the supermarkets getting milk and toilet paper, because it’s like the warning before the storm,”  he said. “It does look like that, from what the speaker says, the governor is going to be calling a special session.”

Anderson went on to say that Gov. Martin O’Malley had not polled Baltimore lawmakers, and should not feel comfortable that the 18-member delegation would support legislation that would allow a casino to be built in Prince George’s County.

The delegation chair has said for months that the city is unanimously opposed to expanding gambling in a special session, unless various measures benefiting Baltimore were also passed.

“We’re not going to break down,” Anderson said. “We’re going to stand together.”

Eye Opener: Gambling meeting Wednesday afternoon

House of Delegates leadership will meet Wednesday afternoon in Annapolis to discuss an expansion of Maryland’s casino gambling program.

Casino developers have jumped back into the debate this week, as Maryland Live developer David S. Cordish met with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, for two hours Tuesday.

In a letter to the Baltimore delegation to the House, a Caesars Entertainment Corp. senior vice president said a gambling expansion would allow a future city casino to reach its “full potential.”

Here’s a few other headlines:

Caesars urges Baltimore lawmakers to approve gambling expansion

In a letter to Baltimore’s delegation to the House of Delegates, a Caesars Entertainment Corp. vice president urged the lawmakers to vote for legislation this summer that would change Maryland’s casino gambling laws — but only if Caesars is taken care of.

Del. Curt S. Anderson, the delegation’s chairman, has previously said all 18 members of the city’s delegation were opposed to holding a special session that would allow a casino to be built in Prince George’s County and legalize table games, such as poker and blackjack.

CBAC Gaming LLC, a Caesars-led group, is the lone bidder for the license to operate a Baltimore casino. The state Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission is scheduled to vote on the license on July 31.

Baltimore delegates have been concerned that a casino most likely to be built at National Harbor near Oxon Hill would reduce the revenue generated by a Baltimore facility.

But Jan Jones, Caesars’ vice president for communications and government relations, wrote that a gambling expansion would benefit the Harrah’s casino Caesars would build.

That’s only the case if the expansion is “coupled with a well-studied market-based adjustment to the operators share for the Baltimore City and Arundel Mills sites,” she wrote.

Jones’ position reiterated a stance the company has taken since April.

Legalizing table games would allow Caesars to hire 500 more people, Jones wrote, with compensation and benefits to those employees amounting to $50,000 a year. Table games — taxed at a rate no greater than 14 percent — would allow the casino to realize its “full potential,” Jones wrote.

Baltimore lawmakers are also seeking increased bonding authority for school construction coupled with any new gambling legislation.

House leadership is scheduled to meet with Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, Wednesday afternoon for a gambling update.

House leadership will discuss gambling Wednesday

All public indications in the last several weeks are that the vote count needed for the General Assembly to approve a gambling expansion this summer has not changed significantly since adjournment of the legislature’s regular session.

But House of Delegates leadership intends to meet Wednesday afternoon, The Washington Post reports, after which the special session picture might come into focus.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to decide soon whether to call a special session that could end with the approval of a National Harbor casino and the legalization of table games, such as blackjack and poker.

But 71 votes are needed in the House to pass such a bill and there is widespread, varied opposition — not only to gambling expansion, but to holding a special session at all.

O’Malley said he hoped to have a draft of a gambling bill ready by the end of last week but still had not produced that draft as of Tuesday afternoon.

A special session would have to be convened, and a bill passed, before Aug. 20, because any legislation that changes Maryland’s casino gambling law is subject to voter approval in November.

Eye Opener: Top Rawlings-Blake deputy resigns

Who needs another casino? The Maryland State Lottery Agency enjoyed its 15th-straight record-breaking year in fiscal 2012, selling $1.8 billion in tickets more than $500 million of which went to the state.

The lottery also manages the state’s casinos, which earned $194.5 million for the state in fiscal year 2012.

Here’s a few other headlines:

Eye Opener: Small businesses not seeing slots revenue

With a final decision on whether the General Assembly will consider gambling expansion this summer apparently just days away, here’s a few gambling-related headlines to start you out on Monday:

Gambling bill still being prepared

Some expect the months-long casino gambling debate will be resolved next week, but Gov. Martin O’Malley has yet to produce a bill draft.

Raquel Guillory, an O’Malley spokeswoman, said Friday that the bill’s language was still being worked out. She said the draft may be available next week.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, had expected to hold a press conference Friday, perhaps to discuss the bill and a special session where it would be introduced. That press conference, never more than tentative, was canceled after O’Malley indicated he would try to have a bill prepared by Friday.

The legislation is not likely to stipulate the tax rate on slot machines and table games, as O’Malley has indicated a desire to shift that decision to a professional gambling commission. With several large delegations in the House of Delegates opposed to a special session and to an expansion of gambling for a variety of reasons, the bill is being carefully drafted in order to address some of those concerns.

The legislature has an Aug. 20 deadline for passing a bill, so that it can go before voters in a November referendum.