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Senate launches debate on legalizing card games

The Maryland Senate opened debate Thursday over a proposed ballot measure that would authorize gambling on card games at up to six locations, including Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kittleman.jpgThe measure was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard) as an amendment to a bill aimed at putting card games only at Rosecroft, the ailing harness-racing track in Fort Washington.

A provision included in the 2008 measure authorizing slot machines in Maryland requires the legislature to go back to the voters for further expansions of gambling.

Kittleman said that card games might make sense at other locations besides Rosecroft and that there was no reason to hold multiple statewide votes on the issue.

"I think it would be much better for us to go ahead and deal with this now," Kittleman told his colleagues on the Senate floor.

Under his plan, a state commission would pick the location of the other five cards sites. There could be some overlap with the five locations authorized to operate slots, but the bill does not require it.

Muse mug.JPGKittleman's proposal drew objections from Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's), the sponsor of the Rosecroft bill, who described it as "a local issue."

Muse said the community around Rosecroft stands to lose 600 jobs in coming months if the track does not find another revenue source. He said he feared that adding other locations could derail his effort.

"Let's come back and deal with your idea on another bill," Muse told Kittleman.

The bill does not spell out what kind of card games would be authorized, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he envisioned poker games in which "the house takes a piece for letting the people play." Miller's Senate district includes part of Prince George's.

Debate is expected to resume Friday.

If the cards bill passes the Senate -- without or without the additional five locations -- its odds in the House remain long.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) has said he is not eager to take up an additional gambling bill until the state's slots program gets off the ground. On Thursday, Busch said he would defer additional comment until discussing the issue with Prince George's lawmakers in his chamber.

By John Wagner  |  March 18, 2010; 1:48 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , John Wagner  
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