The battle isn’t over to oppose casino-style gaming in prince George’s County, according to some local religious leaders.
Pictured: Gov. Martin O’Malley signs the legislation to expand gaming in Maryland along with Senator Robert Garagiola, left,, and House Speaker Michael Busch, right, on Aug. 15, 2012 in Annapolis. (Jonathan Newton – WASHINGTON POST)
On Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation that would allow a Las Vegas-style casino into the county.
“I feel disappointed but not disheartened,” said the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, pastor of the Greater Mount Nebo African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bowie. “I recognize how the system works in Annapolis.
The bill places the slots issue into the hands of voters.
“We continue to aggressively to oppose slots. Now there will be a referendum and the faith community will really push for people to stand up,” Weaver said.
The bill also calls for table games at the state’s five other authorized slots sites. During the signing ceremony, O’Malley said, “This compromise will put us in a competitive position with surrounding states.”
The vote by the Maryland General Assembly has set up a battle in November over what will be the state’s largest gambling expansion since 2008, when voters authorized five slots sites. While Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and Senate President Mike Miller (D) lead the effort for the legislation, their efforts could cost them votes in the future.
“What has caused me some angst is that some of our elected officials really don’t think that the faith community has much influence over our parishioners in terms of slot or what we feel about marriage,” Weaver said. “There is an utter disregard and as a result the old days of coming to our churches and being call out by the pastor is over.”
The Rev. Nathaniel Thomas, pastor of Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church, said the slots and same-sex marriage referendum mark a defining moment in the state. “This is going to be a tell tale story of the state of Maryland in terms of morality,” he said.
There are some in the county who question whether or not the ministers are being used by well-financed competing interests within the gaming industry. Maryland Live! opened earlier this year at Arundel Mills. Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Va., and Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Md., would like to place slots at Rosecroft Raceway, which it owns in Fort Washington while MGM Resorts International has expressed interest to place slots at National Harbor, the waterfront development overlooking the Potomac River.
SOURCE: Hamil R. Harris
The Washington Post