Maryland Voters OK Gambling Expansion

Casinos will be able to add table games; a new casino is planned for the state.

Gambling in Maryland will soon include table games such as blackjack and a casino near Washington, D.C., after voters Nov. 6 approved an expansion measure that generated the most expensive political advertising campaign in the state's history.

With 98% of precincts reporting, the gambling question had 52% approval. The measure received an enormous amount of attention, largely because more than $90 million was spent on television and radio advertising.

Table games like craps and poker could begin early next year at Maryland's three existing casinos and at two expected to be built later. Because the question also passed in Prince George's County, a casino can also be built near the nation's capital.

MGM Resorts International wants to build an $800 million casino near National Harbor. The Prince George's County casino can't open until 2016.

Penn National Gaming Inc. which operates Hollywood Casino Perryville and Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat the gambling measure. PNGI also owns Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, a West Virginia gambling establishment that draws heavily from Maryland.

The ballot question also reduces the tax rates paid by Maryland casinos to varying degrees, partly to make up for added competition from the added casino.

Gov. Martin O'Malley called a special session in August to consider the expansion. Lawmakers passed legislation that still needed voter approval.

Hollywood Casino Perryville, Casino at Ocean Downs, and Maryland Live! Casino were authorized under the first casino measure that passed several years ago in Maryland. Two others, one in Baltimore and another at a state park in western Maryland, have not yet been built.