Prince George's Officials Irked by Appointments

Gale Horton Gay | 5/31/2012, 4:42 p.m.

Gaming Group Lacks County Members Presence

Prince George's County officials are seeing red over the appointment of a work group to study the possible expansion of gaming in Maryland that doesn't include any voting members from the county.

Last week Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's and Calvert) and Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) announced the 10 voting members of the Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion, which will study the issues associated with a potential expansion of gaming in Maryland. The group might propose legislation that may be considered by the General Assembly during a special session in July.

Andrea Harrison, chair of the Prince George's County Council, said it was a "real slap in the face" for there not to be someone from the county with voting power in the group. She said she had spoken to her council colleagues who are "extremely disappointed" and she has read similar opinions expressed on blog posts.

"I certainly don't think anyone in Prince George's County is happy about that," Harrison said. "I don't know how anyone can know adequately [what's in] Prince George's County's [best interest] who is not from Prince George's County. That's extremely disrespectful. To think you would have a work group that includes individuals who don't even have the possibility of gaming in their jurisdictions."

Among the work group several members represent Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Howard County.

"No one knows Prince George's like someone from Prince George's," Harrison said.

While there are no Prince Georgians on the work group, Miller, who is a longtime resident of the county and is still influential in its politics, will have a significant say on where gaming machines will be located.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said he was confident the work group would reach a decision in the county's favor; however, he did not address the issue of the lack of county representation on the work group.

"We are pleased that the state has chosen to utilize a work group that will take a thoughtful and comprehensive look at gaming and how it should be regulated in Maryland," said Baker, 53.

"I am confident that at the conclusion of this review process, the work group will determine that a high-end destination facility will be a wonderful addition to Maryland's many travel and tourism attractions and generate a tremendous amount of revenue for the state and Prince George's County."

Asked if county officials plan to take any action, Harrison said, "Honestly I don't know anything we can do."

She said she hoped the two alternates who are from Prince George's County will have the opportunity to provide input to the group.

The first meeting of the group will be held at 10 a.m. on June 1 in Room 101 of the House Office Building. Two additional meetings are set for 10 a.m. June 12 at 11 a.m., and on June 20 at 1 p.m. If a consensus is reached, a special session will be held the week of July 9.

"It became evident in the 2012 legislative session that the issue of gaming should be examined in more detail," said O'Malley, 49. "We are confident that their [the work group] expertise and guidance will help us move toward consensus on this issue."

John Morton III has been selected to chair the group. He is a senior business and financial services executive and a board member for six public corporations. Morton was appointed as a member of the Maryland Stadium Authority in 2008 and now serves as chairman.