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Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Senate President Want Poker

Representatives Fear State Will Lose Out to Neighboring Markets

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Money is at the heart of the issue of whether or not to legalize poker in Maryland.The domino effect continues.

Elected officials in Maryland have spoken out in favor of adding poker and other table games to their new slot casinos recently as the state’s legislature is considering bills to expand their gaming offerings.

Although there is still a lot of work to bring legalized table games to Maryland, the fact that yet another U.S. state is considering welcoming poker within its borders shows just how hungry state governments are for revenue — and just how accepted poker has become in the mainstream.

Two major Democrats — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller — have come out in support of adding table games to the state’s recently allowed but-still-yet-unopened slot casinos. Bills to add table games were introduced in the state House and Senate earlier this month.

“I’m not fighting internally about whether or not table games are a good or bad thing for the city,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I think the revenue will help us be more competitive.”

Miller agrees, saying the actions of nearby states have forced Maryland’s hand.

“We haven’t even gotten the slots issue off of the ground yet, and we are way behind the curve,” Miller said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are building schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Those are Maryland dollars that we need to keep within the state.”

People hope they will look at these kinds of cards soon in Maryland.Indeed, those three states all have legalized poker and other table games in parts of their state within the last six months. Pennsylvania passed a state budget that depended on table-game revenue in October, while officially legalizing table games in January.

West Virginia’s Jefferson County voted by a 2-to-1 margin in December to add poker and other table games to the Charles Town Race and Slots property in West Virginia, hoping to attract Baltimore and D.C. residents who didn’t want to trek all the way to Atlantic City for a game. Other counties in West Virginia have offered poker games and tournaments for years, but it was the first time Jefferson County got in on the action.

And most recently, the state government in Delaware decided they couldn’t afford to wait — passing table-games legislation at the end of last month. Games are expected to be up and running by summertime.

While many elected officials see the offering of table games as a potential solution for keeping money within the state, there are plenty of high-profile objectors, including two major Democrats in the state — Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Still, it might be up to the public to decide. To expand gambling in Maryland, the issue must be passed by means of a public referendum — but that all depends if the legislature can agree on the wording of such a bill to put on the ballot.

Revenue from the table games would go toward education in the state.