The city's delegation dropped a demand that Baltimore's capacity to issue school construction bonds be doubled to $200 million, but delegates appeared to have won assurance of favorable consideration during next year's session. Busch said the city's request appears "very doable."
Among those pleased by the outcome were the state's veterans' organizations.
Tom Davis, department adjutant for the American Legion Department of Maryland, said his organization has been asking for the past 10 years for permission to have slots-like machines in its halls. Under current law, veterans' groups in nine Eastern Shore counties can run gambling terminals. The new law expands that right to all counties except Montgomery, whose lawmakers opted out. Halls would be limited to five machines.
"I think it is a positive thing," Davis said. He said it will enable the organizations to raise more money and consequently provide more support to veterans. The American Legion — including auxiliary groups — has about 90,000 members in the state and 145 posts, Davis said.
While the provisions allowing table games and a new casino require voter approval, the language permitting the gambling machines at veterans' halls does not. It will become law without going on the ballot. Another provision that doesn't face a referendum will transfer ownership of slot machines from the state to casinos. That provision is expected to account for $135 million of the $174 million in new revenue the bill is expected to generate for schools in 2017.
Busch acknowledged that the bill, as changed in the House, is estimated to raise $32 million a year less in revenue for the state than before the amendments. He said the House tried to strike a balance that would keep the industry healthy and be fair to all of the incumbent license holders, including Cordish, an important employer in Busch's home county of Anne Arundel.
"Obviously the owner of Maryland Live had every right to be concerned," Busch said. The House changes gave the recently opened casino, the state's largest, a deeper tax cut.
Miller said the outcome was a big win for Maryland Live. "Mr. Cordish had a great deal more influence in the House," Miller said.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, said he plans to fight the measure in the referendum.
"Any modest revenues that will result from this new MGM casino will be offset to a large extent by the deep tax cuts that have been awarded by the legislature to MGM's in-state competitors," Franchot said.
In addition to elected officials and disgruntled casino owners, the referendum could face a fight from churches that oppose gambling.
The Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George's, said he expects that local clergy will urge voters to reject the casino expansion. He said the state should create jobs by building infrastructure, not casinos.
"These are debt-driven jobs that seek to generate revenue off the backs of those who can least afford it," he said.
•Allows casinos to be open 24 hours a day
Provisions of bill needing voter approval
Allows a sixth casino in Maryland, to be in Prince George's County