Md. expanding gambling but keeping highest gambling tax

Aug 20, 2012 6:34 PM

Maryland lawmakers have agreed with Gov. Martin O’Malley that they should expand gambling within the state but they still insist on maintaining the highest gambling tax rates in the country.

Originally, the Maryland gaming law taxed slot machines at the five licensed facilities at 67 percent. Still, the high rate didn’t discourage license applicants.

In the adjustments made to gambling law last week, lawmakers eased some of the rates, hoping to reduce the amount of opposition the additional gaming would develop. Most vehement objectors were the Cordish Cos., developer of a huge slots facility at a mall in Anne Arundel County, and Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), whose hopes for slot machines at the embattled harness racing track, Rosecroft Raceway, could be in jeopardy.

Observers believe the new law, proposed by O’Malley, was created to provide a license in Prince Georges County for the Peterson Cos. that already has an agreement with MGM Resorts International (MGM) for an $800 million casino.

By granting the license to the Peterson Cos., Rosecroft Raceway will again be left out in the cold.

Cordish has complained that it made a major investment in its Baltimore facility on the basis of the original law’s limit of five gaming licenses. To ease the company’s concerns, the new legislation permits the “Maryland Live” facility to keep an additional 8 percent of the slots revenue. That would be in addition to the 33 percent it now holds.

There also were other minor adjustments to the tax requirements that sought to reduce objections and veterans groups were given permission to install five instant pull tab gambling machines in their facilities.

All the political wrangling will continue until the November referendum when voters state wide will be asked to amend the state’s constitution to permit the gambling expansion and the voters of Prince Georges County will be asked whether they favor a gaming license in their locale.