Maryland's governor wants the state's gambling issues in his rear view mirror, and expressed exasperation about the persistence of the debate on the eve of a special session he is calling to add another casino and allow Vegas-style games.
"I'm so sick of this issue," said Gov. Martin O'Malley, speaking to reporters at an event to tout lower infant mortality rates Wednesday morning. "I just want to get it behind us."
Later in the roughly ten minute question and answer session, he came back to the theme. "I don't know a single member of the General Assembly who ran for office to deal with gambling," he said.
O'Malley's top aides unveiled the administration proposal on gambling expansion Tuesday evening. The plan would allow a casino to be built in Prince George's County in mid-2016, well after the term-limited governor leaves office. It also essentially creates three categories of Maryland casinos: Large, medium and small.
The large facilities -- in Anne Arundel County, and planned ones in Baltimore and Prince George's county would have an effective tax rate of 56 percent once the program is fully operating -- 11 points lower than the current 67 percent. But the casinos would have to buy their own slot machines. The Arundel and Baltimore facilities would have to use about half of that lower tax rate for marketing and capital re-investment.
The "medium" casino -- in Cecil County -- would also have six points taken off its 67 percent tax rate, but also be responsible for buying machines. It would have an effective tax rate off 61 percent.
The "small" casinos -- in Worcester County and planned for Allegany County would both eventually have 57 percent tax rates. Now the planned Allegany facility has a 50 percent rate. The Worcester facility, which is operating, has a 67 percent rate.
The governor said this morning that he has little patience for delegations that are holding their votes in exchange for pet projects as members from Baltimore city, Montgomery County and Baltimore County delegations have suggested.
"This is not so much about what we want, but we need to do to get this behind us," O'Malley said.
The governor said that one of the "low points" of his time in public service was on the final day of the 2012 regular session when a budget deal imploded after it was clear a Senate-approved gambling expansion proposal would fail.
He blamed that collapse on "gambling interests" and said it was the reason he included a provision in his legislation barring campaign donations from casino companies.