ANNAPOLIS - Maryland lawmakers are angry that the owner of the state's newest casino is demanding a host of favorable conditions in legislation that would authorize an expansion of gambling in the state.
David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., has "got a lot of nerve," said Del. Jolene Ivey, D-Prince George's County.
Officials from Cordish Cos., owner of Maryland Live at Arundel Mills mall, met with several Anne Arundel County lawmakers Tuesday to outline the company's wishes, which officials argue will protect their investment from competition with a casino in Prince George's County. Most notably, the company wants to be able to review legislation before it is introduced and the bill to not be changed before lawmakers vote.
They also want the tax rate on Maryland Live's slot machines lowered to 55 percent from 67 percent. Tax rates could be lowered for the state's other casinos, but not as much, Cordish's list of demands says.
"I guess we should just guarantee that he be a wealthy man and make sure he be successful in all his business ventures, how about that?" Ivey said. "I think most of us are willing to be reasonable, but he's got to be reasonable, and whether he is or isn't, we're not going to line up stars for him."
Added an official from Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker's administration: "For him to think he has a veto over the Maryland legislative process goes a bit too far."
Legislation being prepared by Gov. Martin O'Malley's staff is expected to authorize table games and a sixth casino site, to be located in Prince George's, probably at National Harbor.
In a statement, Cordish officials said they would prefer Maryland's gambling market remain unchanged. But if a sixth casino is added, it's obvious that "significant tax rate and other adjustments must be made," said Joe Weinberg, president of gaming and resorts.
Among Cordish's other requests: the authorization of Internet gambling in Maryland; a 12.5 percent tax rate on table games, instead of the 20 percent proposed by a gambling work group earlier this summer; limiting the size of a Prince George's casino to 3,000 slot machines; and enforcing a 10-year moratorium on adding more casino sites in Maryland.
"No single person, whether or not it's an official or a private businessman, is going to dictate terms of legislation. That's not the way the legislative process works... we legislate in the public interest overall," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County.
Cordish's demands will have no impact on the governor's gambling bill, which is using the recommendations of the gambling work group as a starting point, according to a spokeswoman for O'Malley.
And Ivey said lawmakers wouldn't bend to the will of a gambling company, no matter what the outcome of the special session.
"I don't know that there's definitely anything that's going to happen," she said. "But we're definitely not going to be [Cordish's] fairy godmother."