ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to expand gambling in Maryland cruised through a Senate committee on the first day of special session, and appeared poised to move to the House on Friday.

But the House is where the gambling legislation could die, as reticent delegates refused to approve an expansion both in the General Assembly and through a special gambling task force.

"I have no idea what will happen in the House, candidly," said Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore and Howard.

Pit bull legislation moves forward
A bill addressing a court ruling that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous" passed a Maryland Senate committee vote and is expected to be voted on by the full Senate on Friday.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, specifies that a dog owner is strictly liable for damages in instances of a bite or attack by any kind of dog, not just pit bulls.
Frosh's measure passed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which he heads, by a 6-3 vote.
The bill would shift liability away from landlords and property owners, whom the Maryland Court of Appeals declared were responsible for damages if it can be proven they were aware a dangerous animal was living on their property.

Groups are lobbying furiously both for and against the proposal, from Prince George's County lawmakers pushing for a new $800 million casino at National Harbor, to the owner of the new Anne Arundel County casino battling to preserve profits at his site.

"It's kind of like herding cats," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's. "I think we're going to get it done, but if we don't, it's not because we haven't tried."

The governor's bill would allow a sixth state casino, in Prince George's County, authorize table games such as blackjack and roulette, and adjust the share of slots revenues between casino operators and the state.

If approved by the General Assembly, the final say on gambling expansion would be left to Maryland voters in November. Voters statewide would have to approve all the measures in the bill, and a majority of voters in Prince George's would have to approve a casino in their jurisdiction.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, testifying before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee alongside aides from the governor's office, pledged to honor the local-majority vote, no matter how close the margin.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold protested the legislation -- a casino in Prince George's "will be a boa constrictor that will squeeze the life out of Maryland Live!," the new casino opened by the Cordish Cos., he said

And Joe Weinberg, a managing partner at Cordish, reiterated the company's stance that changing the gambling market so soon after its own casino has opened was unfair.

The legislation passed overwhelming by 11-1, with several amendments, including a measure to collect $500 per table game from casino operators to spend on gambling addiction programs -- if the funds are needed -- and a measure allowing money from the Education Trust Fund to be spent on prekindergarten programs.

Kasemeyer, the committee's chairman, acknowledged the uncertainty of the bill's fate, but called the proposal "as good a job as you could have anticipated."

"We don't know the real numbers," he said. "But I think on the surface even [David Cordish] would admit that it goes some way, if not all the way, towards treating him in a way that equalizes the loss he'd absorb when and if a Prince George's casino comes online."

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com