Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker testified before a House of Delegates committee last week in an effort to drum up support for table gaming in the state.

Baker has contended that the only way to have a gaming facility in Prince George’s is to have a high-end resort casino similar to ones found in Las Vegas. He’s maintained that the only location throughout the county for this casino to go is National Harbor.

Baker told the House Ways and Means Committee that allowing table gaming is crucial to his plan to create the kind of facility he thinks the county deserves.

“We have concluded that a new high end destination gaming facility in Prince George’s County will provide substantial benefits to both the County and the State,” Baker said. “I believe that a strategically located, billion dollar, high end destination entertainment facility with lodging, dining, live shows and gaming in Prince George’s County can capitalize on receiving dollars from out of state patrons and will maximize revenues.”

Baker has received pushback from other officials around the state on his proposed plan. Some have said his plan eliminates competition and would give the Prince George’s casino an unfair advantage over other gaming facilities in the state.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold told the {Capital} that he expects his county to get $12 to $15 million annually from tax revenue from the county’s Arundel Mills casino and that could be severely hampered by the construction of a facility in Prince George’s.

“I don’t want to see anything jeopardize the revenue that’s to come to Anne Arundel County,” Leopold said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D.-Dist. 27, supports casino gambling in the county but rejects the notion of taking Rosecroft Raceway, the initial cause for the push for a gaming facility in the county, off the table.

Miller said in several interviews that he’s concerned about competitive bidding and doesn’t want the county to settle for a bad deal.

Then there are still some who are opposed to any sort of casino altogether. A group of concerned county residents have ratcheted up their calls for no gaming facilities to be built in Prince Georges.

A group led by former Del. Gerron Levi, Stop Slots in Prince George’s, presented a petition signed by over 1500 county residents in opposition to casino gaming at the same committee meeting in which Baker testified. They’ve also had over 500 people sign an on-line petition in opposition as well.

Both sides of the aisle in Annapolis must approve their versions of the gaming bill. Then state and county voters must approve the plan in a ballot referendum.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO