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More casino-related laws pass, advance in General Assembly

ANNAPOLIS — Casino jobs would be open to some former criminal offenders under legislation approved on Wednesday by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1053, if signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, would lower the bar that had been set to prevent people who committed a crime of “moral turpitude” — including fraud and breach of trust — from obtaining a job at any Maryland casinos.

But Baltimore officials asked the legislature to relax the law to make more city residents eligible for jobs at the Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street, currently under construction and expected to open in 2014.

Under existing law, a person convicted of such a crime at any point would be ineligible to work at a Maryland casino. Under HB 1053, which passed 94-40 in the House last month, the person couldn’t have had such a conviction in any of the previous seven years.

There was little debate on the bill in the House and none in the Senate, which voted 47-0 to approve the legislation.

With another 47-0 vote in the Senate on Wednesday, the legislature has also approved House Bill 546, which would add veterans organizations in Montgomery County, such as an American Legion post, to a list of those in other jurisdictions that are allowed to operate up to five electronic bingo machines — to many observers, the equivalent of a slot machine.

Most other counties received that authorization as part of legislature’s hastily passed gambling expansion legislation, which was approved in August. But Montgomery lawmakers in the House asked their county to be left out until they first discussed the issue with members of the County Council. The bill also clarifies what type of machines veterans organizations are allowed to operate.

A third gambling bill — which would allow casinos to keep 100 percent of a player’s losses if the initial bet was made with promotional money from the casino — was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.