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Slots commissioner pushes for table games

A member of the state slots commission said Friday that now is the time to look at expanding the state’s fledgling gaming industry to allow table games at casinos to make Maryland competitive in the Mid-Atlantic gaming arms race.

“We’re running to catch these other states. They’re our competitors,” said commissioner D. Bruce Poole, a former state delegate from Washington County. “The other competitors are really outstripping us. They’re ahead of us.”

“West Virginia, the state across the river from me, has table games coming to it,” Poole said. “They’re going to have a casino. There’s no question that’s where the bright lights are.”

Chairman Donald C. Fry said Poole’s comments were “appropriate” before taking the Video Lottery Location Commission into a closed session to discuss a slate of suggested legislative changes. Adding table games would require the legislature to put a referendum on the ballot, and the voters of the state to approve it.

“It’s one I think we should look at as we go forward,” Fry said.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers analyst retained by the commission said the addition of labor-intensive table games to Maryland casinos – none of which are operational – would have its biggest impact on employment in the industry.

“It will add incremental revenue, but most importantly, it will add a lot more jobs,” said Michael French, the analyst.

The State Lottery Agency estimates that five licensed parlors in the state will employ about 5,000.

“When we started this debate about slots, the concern was that we were going to be taking advantage of the poor… I think in a lot of ways that’s a stereotype,” Poole said. “Clearly table games will draw in people who have more economic capacity, who will spend more money not only at the casino, but also at restaurants and hotels. Fine, lets not milk the poor… but I wouldn’t mind milking the wealthy.”