The Senate passed the administration’s gaming bill Friday by a vote of 28 to 14 at around 6:30 p.m.—after a long day that trudged through 26 floor amendments. Only five amendments made it onto the bill.
Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin was able to push one of his nine amendments through but ultimately voted against the measure—citing a “behind closed doors” process that “anointed” MGM Resorts the owner of a planned sixth casino in Prince George’s County.
The Spy caught up with Pipkin during a break in the Senate debate, and again after the final vote.
The video is just over five minutes.
The bill would give a green-light for a full-service casino in Prince George’s County and legalize table games at Maryland’s five existing slot parlor locations.
The bill now heads to the House at 10 a.m. Monday—but not before members of the House Ways and Means Committee hold a work session over the weekend to consider the Senate bill and draft amendments of their own.
The House is more evenly split and the vote will be much closer than the 2-1 margin of victory in the Senate.
If the House passes the bill, it would face one more hurdle on a statewide referendum ballot in November.
In the days and weeks leading up to election day, gaming-related money is expected to dwarf national political campaigns in the DC and Baltimore media markets.
“I would love to be in ad sales for the local [TV] stations right now,” said a lawmaker who chose anonymity. “I could retire off just an itty-bitty percent of what these casino operators are going to spend to turn public opinion.”
Pipkin’s amendment would require at least one member of the Maryland Gaming Commission to reside in a district with a casino.
Another amendment offered by Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Harford, will allow the Rocky Gap Casino in Allegany and the Ocean Downs Casino in Worcester, the two smaller of the five slots parlors, to buy or lease their own slots machines and receive an additional 6 percent share of the slots revenue. Without the amendment, only the larger casinos would be permitted to buy or lease their own machines.
The state currently owns or leases the slots machines for all the casinos and pays out 13 percent in service agreements for upkeep and maintenance. The state taxes the casinos 6 percent to recoup some of the cost.
Jennings said the amendment will allow all the casinos to buy or lease their own machines when the state’s lease agreements end, but the casinos can still choose to keep the current arrangement with the state.
Lawmakers are expected to be in Annapolis until at least Tuesday. There is no Senate session scheduled for Monday.