A local union leader accused Maryland lawmakers Monday of "playing games" with people's lives by derailing a deal to expand gambling in the state, a move that could add nearly 4,000 jobs in Prince George's County.
Maryland lawmakers have struggled through a debate over gambling that could lead to a sixth state casino in Prince George's County and the authorization of table games such as blackjack and roulette at all state casino sites.
However, voters in a statewide referendum also must approve any expansion of gambling, and four out of five Marylanders want to the opportunity in November to make the choice themselves, according to a new poll conducted on behalf of the Building Trades for the National Harbor, site of a proposed $800 million casino.
And 53 percent of voters think there's room for improvement in Maryland's slots program, which some have criticized as uncompetitive compared with other local states', the poll by Annapolis firm OpinionWorks found.
Ten percent of those polled think the state's gambling program is the best that it can be.
Not allowing voters to have a say on measures that would bring thousands of construction jobs to Prince George's and increase tax revenues for the state would be a shame, said Vance Ayres, executive secretary-treasurer of the Washington D.C. Building Trades Council.
"You're putting people's careers on the backburner," Ayres said. "You've got people here [in Annapolis] bickering about things they shouldn't even be bickering about."
Ayres joined leaders from the SEIU and AFSCME labor unions to deliver a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's, asking for a speedy resolution to the gambling debate.
The Building Trades for the National Harbor has begun running a television ad to go with its radio campaign supporting gambling expansion.