ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley is ratcheting up efforts to call a special session to end the months-long debate on gambling in Maryland, but so are opponents who say it's wrong to give tax breaks to casino owners so soon after lawmakers raised income taxes on residents.
The governor has made phone calls and met with lawmakers this week to address delegates' concerns about proposals that could allow a sixth state casino at National Harbor and authorize table games at all state casinos.
The governor's office is working to craft legislation that would put an expansion on the November ballot, since it must be approved by voters statewide.
The legislation is being tailored to address delegates' concerns, according to an O'Malley aide.
Gambling opponents have become more active in their efforts to discourage a gambling special session.
The Alexandria group Taxpayers Protection Alliance is running a television ad in Baltimore that says lawmakers are pulling a "fast one" by floating an idea to allow a commission to set tax rates on slot machines. The ad points out that lawmakers just passed income tax increases on Marylanders earning more than $100,000 annually, a reason not to reduce taxes for casino owners.
The alliance joins officials such as Del. Glen Glass, R-Harford and Cecil counties, who has threatened to boycott the session, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun criticizing the special session and lawmakers' preferential treatment of casino operators.
The most vehement opposition has come from David Cordish, operator of the Maryland Live! casino at Arundel Mills, who wrote a letter to Democratic leaders saying that allowing a third casino in the region -- one that would compete with his slots parlor and a planned casino in downtown Baltimore -- would cause "a massive loss" to the state.
But state budget analysts dismissed Cordish's arguments, saying that while revenues may be weakened at each casino, that doesn't translate to less revenue for the state.
All gambling dollars will make their way to the state at some point, said Warren Deschenaux, director of the Department of Legislative Services.
"Whoever's going to gamble is still going to gamble somewhere, and might even gamble more," he said.