Union leaders are urging Maryland politicians to allow the public to vote on a gambling expansion that would grant a license to build a casino on the National Harbor. It would be the 6th such license in the state. The proposal also aims to bring table games to Maryland’s current casinos.
The new construction would add over 8,000 jobs. Inclusion of table games is expected to generate $223 million in new revenue. A poll of 800 registered voters revealed that 83 percent of respondents want the right to vote on the measure, 56 percent want a sixth casino and 59 percent want table games.
After original talks broke down there was speculation that Gov. O’Malley would call a special session of the state legislature starting July 9th to work out a deal. A deal must be reached by August in order for the measure to reach the November ballot for voter approval. If no deal is reached it will not be able to be voted on by referendum until 2014.
A pro casino group has taken to the airwaves with a series of advertisements aimed at informing the public about the positives that could result from expanded gambling:
The new ad promises “Millions For Schools & Teachers” and “Thousands of New Jobs” and features images of schoolchildren, construction workers, National Harbor in Oxon Hill and the State House in Annapolis.
Unions are concerned about the stall in negotiations because of the jobs the project would provide for the construction industry and those who would eventually work at the casino:
Pollsters told voters the project would create an estimated 8,400 jobs and draw 70 percent of its visitors from out of state.
“[This] represents the largest union construction jobs project in the country,” said Vance Ayres, executive director of the trades council, an affiliation of unions in the D.C. area. “We need these jobs.”
A major sticking point for politicians is that MGM, which would build the proposed $800 million casino, wants tax rates lowered before committing. The state currently has a 67 percent tax on slot revenues.
Several local union leaders joined Ayres to deliver a letter to the Governor calling for the process to be sped up in order for a 2012 vote.
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.
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.”