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Maryland gambling session to be held Aug. 9

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Martin O'Malley on Friday called a special session on the contentious issue of expanding gambling in Maryland, which could result in a new casino for Prince George's County and table games at all casino sites.

The session will be Aug. 9, the governor, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael Busch announced.

While officials in the governor's office are working to finalize legislation to be presented during the session, the bill will include measures allowing table games such as blackjack and roulette and a sixth casino site, likely to be located at National Harbor.

Aides would not say when the bill would be ready.

The governor cited the legislature's failure to pass a budget during the regular 90-day session as motivation to hold a special session exclusively on gambling -- casino negotiations derailed budget talks in April and forced lawmakers to return to Annapolis in May to pass the budget.

"On sine die, when we adjourned without having accomplished a budget, that was a low point for me in my service here, and I want to put those days behind," O'Malley said. "I want to resolve the issue so we can move forward."

If passed by the legislature, the measure will be placed on ballots in November and must receive the approval of voters statewide. And a majority of voters in Prince George's County must approve the sixth casino, in addition to the statewide vote, according to O'Malley.

While a Prince George's casino would take years to build, the addition of table games could generate an additional $100 million in revenue next year for the Maryland budget and bring 2,500 new jobs to the state, O'Malley said.

Measures also will be included to ensure that the revenue that the local jurisdictions receive from slots won't drop if competition from a Prince George's casino proves fierce.

"We have gotten to the point where we've assured everyone we've got an agreement," Busch said. "It's been proven by the citizens of the state of Maryland that overwhelmingly in every subdivision they wanted [gambling]." He added that lawmakers wanted table games at the current sites, and that he feels confident that the voters will want table games too.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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