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Maryland to debate more gambling as casino market grows more crowded

Nicholas Sohr//January 6, 2012

Maryland to debate more gambling as casino market grows more crowded

By Nicholas Sohr

//January 6, 2012

Gambling is shaping up to be one of the most interesting debates of the 2012 legislative session in Maryland and, underscoring the need that many in the General Assembly feel to approve table games, it’s going to be a big issue in plenty of other states, too.

Maryland’s gamblin’ neighbors already have table games — Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia legalized blackjack, poker, roulette and other casino-style games largely in response to Maryland approving slots.

And because it was slower to embrace slot machines than other states, Maryland is a relatively small fish in a pond that’s big and likely to get bigger. In fiscal 2011, there were 20 casinos operating in those four states. They brought in a total of $3.68 billion in revenue that year from their slot machines alone. Maryland’s share from its two casinos – $103 million, or 2.8 percent.

Revenue from table games totaled $783 million in fiscal 2011 in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services.

That share will grow as the state’s largest casinos in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City open their doors. (The Cordish Cos. is building in Anne Arundel and a group led by Caesars in seeking a license in Baltimore). But the casino scene is getting more crowded everywhere.

Pennsylvania, with 10 casinos already, is adding two more. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing the approval of table games in his state. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose state already has full-fledged casinos, wants to expand gambling to the Internet.

Farther north, Boston is girding for a battle over a casino there. Kentucky could permit nine casinos. And while what Montana does probably doesn’t matter much in Maryland, gamblers in Big Sky country will soon be chasing big jackpots on the felt of poker and blackjack tables.

In Maryland, a bipartisan group of senators — seriously, two Democrats and two Republicans — has already filed a bill that would put the table games question to voters this fall, and leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly say they need to pass something to make casinos here more competitive.

“Most people feel that if we’re going to be able to compete with other states, we have to do so from equal footing,” said Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Howard County Republican who co-sponsored the table gaming bill.


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