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Lines drawn on gambling bill

The Senate’s presiding officer said Thursday that a bill to expand gambling in Maryland would either include a sixth casino license for a facility in Prince George’s County or there would be no gambling expansion this year.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said that a bill allowing the addition of table games but not a sixth license was “not acceptable at all.”

SB 892 easily passed in the Senate last week, but won’t be voted on by a House of Delegates subcommittee until Friday or Saturday.

If the bill is amended and passed by the House, it would be subject to the Senate’s approval before moving to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk for signing.

Miller wants a new casino built at National Harbor, where the facility could draw from Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“It allows a site on the Potomac River, immediately adjacent to four of the richest counties in the United States,” Miller said. “They’re all in Virginia.

“It’s the most lucrative site on the East Coast. … Anyone who understands money and fiscal common sense has got to recognize this is a great site.”

Del. Frank S. Turner, D-Howard, chairman of the Finance Resources Subcommittee, said this week that the bill needed a lot of work before it can be voted out of the Ways and Means Committee.

Working in Miller’s favor is that Del. Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery, chairwoman of the House panel, said the point of the bill was to create a six slots license. If the House can tinker with the Senate bill and create more revenue for the state, it could receive a favorable report from Hixson’s committee.

That would set up a debate on the House floor, where the fate of the bill is uncertain. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, has been reluctant to take a firm position on the bill.

“I hope it happens,” Miller said.