ANNAPOLIS - House Speaker Michael Busch on Tuesday morning huddled with officials from Maryland Live!, a major opponent to building a casino in Prince George's County, as the window to expand gambling this year closes.
Busch, D-Anne Arundel, met with the Cordish Cos., developer of Maryland Live!, the casino at Arundel Mills mall that has raked in more than $1 million a day since opening in June. Busch plans to meet with leadership in the House of Delegates on Wednesday afternoon.
Joe Weinberg, president of gaming and resorts for the Cordish Cos., said he and company Chairman David Cordish reiterated their opposition to a proposal for a sixth state casino, likely to be located at National Harbor in Oxon Hill.
Maryland Live! officials say adding another casino would weaken profits at their casino, which is about 30 miles away. They also say it would bean unfair change in the Maryland gambling market -- five casinos were approved by Maryland voters in November 2008 -- when its own casino just opened in June.
In a recent email to lawmakers, Cordish argued that three weak casinos in the Washington-Baltimore region -- Maryland Live!, as well as sites in Baltimore and at National Harbor--would generate less revenue for Maryland, a notion dismissed by state policy analysts.
Maryland collects 67 percent of revenues from slot machines, a percentage that is likely to be reduced if lawmakers approve plans for a Prince George's County casino and table games such as blackjack and roulette.
Any expansion of gambling must be approved by voters statewide.
Lawmakers have until mid-August to pass legislation and give officials enough time to prepare the measure for the November ballot.
Busch, who declined to provide details about what was discussed in Tuesday's meeting, said the talks are part of an ongoing effort to keep apprised of the gambling debate.
"I meet with everybody and try to get all the information I can," Busch told reporters in Annapolis.
Lawmakers wary of a sixth casino are still waiting for Gov. Martin O'Malley's staff to complete a draft bill that would outline all the provisions of a gambling expansion -- the legislation may include a provision that would ensure local governments don't lose overall revenues if competition from a Prince George's casino proves to be fierce, a measure Busch said he supports.
Lawmakers also are considering creating a permanent gambling commission that would be responsible for setting casino tax rates.