Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters officially introduced a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that will bring casino gambling to Prince George’s County.

The bill would place 4,750 video lottery terminals in a specific location in the county, most Rosecroft Raceway since Penn National Gaming, now the owner of the track, has indicated that gaming may be able to keep the track profitable long-term.

Under current state law, this would have to be approved by Maryland voters and a majority of Prince George’s County voter.

Peters, a five-year veteran and former county councilmember, would garner a lot of support from his colleagues on that alone, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has been adamant about bringing slots to the county and is expected to throw his weight behind this.

Peters’ action preempts possible action by the Prince George’s County Council, which debated introducing county legislation last year that would ban slots in the county. There was no consensus among council members who thought it would be best if this issue was left up to residents to decide.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who opposed slots in the county as a delegate, has said he is keeping an open mind this time around. He said because of the county’s fiscal issues, officials should at least gather as much information weighing the pros and cons of the issue before a decision is made one way or the other.

The bill’s support on the other side of the aisle remains questionable as the Prince George’s County House Delegation hasn’t been quite as gung ho about the legislation as its senate counterpart. However, just like Baker, many of them want to gather as much information as possible.

Others have let it be crystal clear about their feelings towards the legislation. Rep. Donna Edwards, D.-Dist. 4, and Anthony G. Maclin, pastor of the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square wrote an op-ed piece in the {Washington Post} expressing their disapproval of the bill.

The two used research and examples of how Atlantic City and Las Vegas aren’t doing so well as places people would want to raise families.

“The people of Prince George’s face a clear choice: Give in to the false hopes of the gaming industry or pursue viable economic solutions that will ensure our long-term economic competitiveness,” the two wrote. “There can be no doubt that the county needs and deserves a state-of-the-art hospital system. But we should steadfastly refuse to cave to monied interests and inflated promises. Prince George’s County has so much more to offer.”

Of the bills’ six co-sponsors, none are from Prince George’s.

The bill ties funding raised from gaming to funding for a new hospital in the county, an idea that Baker opposes and testified is unnecessary for the county to cover its role in building the new facility.

National Harbor is also a potential sight for a casino if this measure is approved.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO