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Gambling debate finished… for now

This may be the last time you read about casino gambling on this blog for a while.

State lawmakers seem convinced that the issue can be put aside in the General Assembly session that begins Wednesday.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat who is vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which dealt with the gambling expansion bill last year, said this session would bring a welcome reprieve for the casino-weary.

“We will have slots bills, but I cannot imagine anything of great significance coming to the floor,” Rosenberg told a group of nonprofit leaders at a session preview on Monday. “We have been there, done that.”

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, a Republican who represents the Upper Shore, laughed when asked Tuesday if he thought there would be any casino bills introduced in the Senate.

Hollywood Casino Perryville, a facility in Pipkin’s district, has had trouble generating the revenue it did before Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall open in June. Management at Perryville was upset it didn’t receive the tax deductions afforded Maryland’s other casinos in the face of increased competition.

But Pipkin said the power given to the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission by the gambling expansion bill that passed in an August special session allowed that panel to deal with tax rates.

Some leftover business stemming from the gambling debate does remain, however.

Pipkin was miffed last summer when one of his staffers was forced to leave a closed meeting of a work group that was formed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to discuss whether the state ought to legalize table games and allow the licensing of a casino in Prince George’s County.

The Office of the Attorney General wrote in June that the work group could meet behind closed doors because it was not formed by an Executive Order, and also because it included only one member who was not a state employee — Chairman John W. Morton III, now a member of the lottery commission.

It’s a loophole in the Open Meetings Act that Pipkin said he’d like to close.

“We’ll have legislation in to address that issue,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t the spirit of the law.”