Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley may create a commission to study the expansion of gambling in the state, a move that could delay efforts to have gambling issues placed on the November ballot, according to state officials and analysts.
The commission would study the issue of adding a sixth state casino site, in Prince George's County, an idea County Executive Rushern Baker lobbied heavily for in Annapolis during the legislative session and continues to push as the best way to raise revenues for the county and state. The new casino also has the backing of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's.
But creating a commission or panel to study gambling could simply be a political tactic to stall the issue long enough to keep a vote on gambling expansion off the November ballot, according to Trevor Parry-Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland.
"This stuff gets done all the time," he said.
Adding table games such as blackjack and roulette to all state casinos was also proposed in conjunction with the Prince George's casino, and House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said lawmakers need more information to help settle the issue.
"If you're going to take up the issue of gaming, you need more data and information," Busch said Wednesday. "I think [the governor's] going to create a commission. If in fact they come back with appropriate information, he could take the opportunity to possibly call a special session in late summer."
O'Malley has floated the idea of calling a second special session in August to vote on a gambling referendum bill, just in time to send the issue to the voters on the November ballot.
It's Baker's last hope of bringing a $1 billion casino to National Harbor, a location that would generate roughly $69 million in local revenue annually, officials estimate.
The commission's success depends on the makeup of its members. A bipartisan commission of gambling advocates and opponents could be ordered, but so could a commission with only gambling proponents who want to protect their investments at the state's five current casinos sites, Parry-Giles said.
The commission is not a stall tactic, said Takirra Winfield, spokeswoman for the governor. It is still in the idea stage, and there aren't any details on what the makeup of the commission would be, or what the commission would be tasked with, she said.
"It's premature to really say that right now," Winfield said. "This is something that the governor said he wants to talk about, but keep separate from the budget."