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Republicans take shot at special session, proponents shoot back

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates chastised Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday for continuing to seek consensus for a gambling-focused special session this summer, causing a deep-pocketed proponent to fire back.

Minority Leader Anthony J. “Tony” O’Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, said opposition to a special session is fierce in his caucus.

“Even though the original date for the special session has passed, it is clear that the governor and powerful gambling interests are working behind the scenes to make this special session for their special friends a reality,” O’Donnell said in a statement.

Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, said it was “irresonsible” to try to push through an expansion of gambling in a quick special session.

“From the moment the governor appointed this workgroup, our caucus has been adamant that this get-it-done quick approach to expanding gambling was not in the best interests of Maryland,” she said. “The failure of the workgroup to reach consensus underscores the complex nature of this issue.”

Building Trades for the National Harbor, a coalition of labor unions that has launched an expensive marketing campaign, said in a statement that House Republicans were out of line.

“The position of the Republican House caucus leadership is out of step with Maryland’s Republican voters.The overwhelming majority of Marylanders – regardless of whether they support or oppose expanded gaming – have made it clear that they want to decide the issue for themselves in the voting booth this November.”

The group has paid for numerous polls and studies advocating for the construction of a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County. Television and radio ads are airing daily in the Baltimore area, too.

O’Donnell said it was wrong for O’Malley and legislative leaders to cut a “back room deal” with MGM Resorts International Inc., who wants to build an $800 million resort casino on the banks of the Potomac.

“The arrogance of this process is just nauseating,” O’Donnell said.

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified O’Donnell’s political party in one reference.