Voters to Have Final Say on Gambling Issue

Gale Gay Horton | 8/22/2012, 11:32 a.m.

"We believe the package they have adopted will make Maryland's gaming program competitive to surrounding states and attractive to visitors from Virginia and Washington, D.C.," said Milt Peterson, principal and chairman of the Peterson Companies.

Representatives of The Cordish Companies, developers of Maryland Live! Casino, have been outspoken about their opposition to a sixth casino.

However following the legislature's decision to approve gaming expansion, Joe Weinberg of The Cordish Companies, offered his comments: "Maryland Live! is, and will continue to be, the premier casino entertainment destination in the region."

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III said he was glad the matter was now in voters' hands.

"It is important because the expansion of gaming into Prince George's County is about the thousands of new jobs, millions of dollars in revenue to the state and county, and growing the travel and tourism industry in Prince George's County," said Baker.

Prior to the General Assembly vote, representatives from the state's labor organizations joined minority business owners from Prince George's County on August 14 in front of the State House calling on the legislative body to approve a casino site in Prince George's County.

"The AFL-CIO wants good jobs in Maryland," said Donna S. Edwards, secretary-treasurer of the Maryland and District of Columbia AFL-CIO. "This is the one bill that we see that will create thousands of jobs for construction workers and service employees. We support this strongly."

However, not everyone is pleased with the expansion of gaming in Maryland.

The Rev. Jonathan Weaver, national president of the Collective Empowerment Group, an organization that represents 125 churches in Prince George's County, said he and the group's members are "vehemently opposed" to bringing a new casino to the county and increasing opportunities for people to gamble.

"We now are totally prepared and energized to have our members go to the polls in as large numbers as we can muster to vote against it," said Weaver. He said the group's churches represent 175,000 congregants.

Weaver, 62, pastor of Mount Nebo AME Church in Bowie, said a casino is "the wrong thing for Prince George's County. It's certainly the wrong way to try to generate revenue."

While proponents of an additional casino emphasize job creation, Weaver said those employment opportunities are likely to be "low-paying" and "marginal." He also cited crime and deterring other employers as reasons for their opposition to gaming.

Weaver added that he also was displeased that although his organization suggested alternative funding ideas to officials and political leaders no one responded.

"It led us to feel minds were already made up," he said.