Maryland special session: House of Delegates work on gambling bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A panel of Maryland lawmakers on Monday lowered the amount of taxes that a casino in Anne Arundel County and a planned casino in Baltimore would have to pay under a measure to expand gambling and bring a new casino to the Washington area.

The changes were made by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Financial Resources, as the House began work on a bill passed by the Senate last week to allow table games such as blackjack at all casino sites and a new casino along the Potomac River in Prince George's County. Lawmakers are meeting as part of a special session on gambling issues.

The House amendments relate to extra money that the Maryland Live! casino in Anne Arundel and a planned casino in Baltimore would be able to keep in order to offset increased competition from a future Prince George's casino.

Under the Senate bill, the two casinos would have paid 5 percent less in state taxes. In the changes made by the House subcommittee, Maryland Live! would pay 8 percent less, and the Baltimore casino would pay 7 percent less.

Delegate Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, said the changes were made to better adjust to the increased competition.

"Remember now, this is going to be a very competitive market we have here now, not only inside the state, but outside the state, too," Turner said. "We want people to come to the state of Maryland."

In addition, Maryland Live!, which is the state's largest casino, would get an added tax advantage. If the casino takes over ownership of slot machines there, it would have its tax rate reduced by 8 percent more. In the Senate bill, larger casinos in the state would have received a 6 percent reduction for taking on the expense of owning the machines.

Maryland now has a 67 percent tax rate on slot machine proceeds, an unusually high amount. The gambling legislation before the General Assembly is resetting the tax rate to varying degrees based on competitive circumstances.

The House Ways and Means Committee was set to work on the bill late Monday afternoon.