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House amendments on gambling bill would cost state $32M per year

ANNAPOLIS — A decision by a House of Delegates panel to further cut taxes on two Maryland casino owners would leave the state with $32 million less by fiscal year 2017 when compared to the bill that passed the Senate Friday.

An updated fiscal analysis of SB 1 posted on the General Assembly’s website shows that Education Trust Fund revenues would still increase in fiscal 2017, but only by $174 million. Gambling bill proponents had previously touted an increase in excess of $200 million to fund public school construction and improvements.

That changed when the Ways and Means Committee decided to effectively reduce the slots tax for Maryland Live casino at Arundel Mills mall to 51 percent and the rate at a future Baltimore facility to 54 percent by 2016.

Later adjustments authorized by the committee could reduce Maryland Live’s tax rate to 49 percent, and Baltimore’s to 51 percent. The current slots tax is 67 percent of gross slots revenues. Table games would be taxed at a 20 percent rate.

Education funding still receives a boost under SB 1 as amended because of the addition of a sixth casino, in Prince George’s County, and the legalization of table games such as blackjack at all state casinos.

Almost half of all slot revenues go to the Education Trust Fund. Compared the Senate bill, the House bill reduces revenue for education by $5 million in fiscal 2014 and $11 million in fiscal 2016. That amount jumps to $32 million for fiscal 2017 because some tax reductions for Maryland Live and Baltimore casino do not go into effect until after a Prince George’s County casino opens. Legislation allows for that facility to open no earlier than mid-2016.

If passed by the legislature, voters would still have to authorize table games and the construction of a sixth casino in November.