Proponents of a Prince George's County casino are scrambling to rally support for a deal that was nearly killed but then was given new life by Gov. Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, are expected to meet in the next few days with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's, to discuss the possibility of a special session, despite the failure of a commission of senators, delegates and state officials to reach a consensus.
The governor and speaker are already scheduled to co-host a fundraiser in support of same-sex marriage during the Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City on Tuesday.
Officials with MGM and National Harbor, who've proposed building an $800 million resort casino in Prince George's, quickly took advantage of the renewed hope for a gambling deal by launching a radio ad Friday in Baltimore and Annapolis to drum up favor for gambling expansion.
And Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has promised to continue to fight for the casino, which he said will create thousands of jobs and bring new revenues to the county and state.
But senators and delegates have appeared to reach another impasse that's drawing comparisons to the budget meltdown during the 90-day session. There's no resume talks unless a fruitful negotiation can occur, said Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, and a member of the commission.
Other members of the commission described the process as "a waste of time."
"The door is always open to try to have productive discussion, if they're going to be productive," Garagiola said. "I wouldn't want to have 'Groundhog Day' all over again."
State senators and O'Malley's staff roundly criticized the arguments made by the House. While members agreed on most facets of a deal to allow a sixth state casino site and authorize table games such as roulette and slots, delegates focused their attention on proposed adjustments to the tax rates on slots, according to Sen. Douglass J.J. Peters, D-Prince George's.
Members of the House said they don't want to give a tax break to casino operators, though Maryland has already granted a special exception to a casino site at Rocky Gap, where operators may collect 50 percent of slots revenues, compared with the 33 percent earned at other sites.
Peters called the House's position on tax rates a "poison pill" designed to shoot down the progress the commission made.
"They took that one piece and played that up and down so that it looked like we were shortchanging education, which is false," he said.
State analysts estimated that advancing all of the commission's plans to expand gambling would earn Maryland an additional $223 million for education.