By Len Lazarick
The chair of the gambling subcommittee in the House of Delegates said Wednesday he hopes there are no gaming bills in any special session to fix the current budget mess — there are not enough votes to pass a 6th casino.
Del. Frank Turner, chair of the finance resources subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee, told a Howard County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, “I hope not to see any gaming bills during the special session.”
“We’ve got five facilities” for video lottery terminals already, and having a 6th slots casino “was not a good strategy,” Turner said.
The push by Senate President Mike Miller for a sixth gambling operation at National Harbor near the Wilson bridge in Prince George’s County was a major point of difference when the General Assembly failed to pass tax hikes on the last day of the session to avoid more budget cuts.
According to Gov. Martin O’Malley, the gambling issue continues to be a major sticking point between Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch in calling legislators back to Annapolis to finish their budget work by passing an income tax increase.
Wants to slow expansion of gambling
Despite his oversight of gambling issues for five years, Turner has never been a fan of gaming. “I see my place is to slow this down as much as I can,” Turner told the business group. Turner said there were dozens of bills to expand slot machines into every veterans club and firehouse throughout the state.
“Let’s not turn into a state like Las Vegas,” Turner said.
Turner’s distaste for the casino bill his subcommittee reported out just seven hours before the end of the session was obvious when he abstained from voting on the bill in committee.
But the bill was never reported to the House floor. “There were not the votes” to pass it, Turner said. “There were less than 40 votes,” with 71 delegates needed to pass a bill. Plus, delegates were prepared to offer a string of amendments. “I would have been fighting off amendments for half the night,” Turner said.
“We were prepared to go into extended session” on the House side, Turner said, allowing time to finish its work. But the Senate rejected that idea.