Maryland ready for its taste of Vegas November 11, 2012 at 2:03 am Brian Witte, ASSOCIATED PRESS ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland, once reluctant to embrace large-scale gambling, may be on track to become a major East Coast casino state. Voters decided Tuesday to allow Las Vegas-style table games at six casinos, including one next to the nation’s capital. At first, Maryland lawmakers were leery of full-fledged casinos. In 2007, after years of debate, they settled on allowing five casinos with only slot machines, and they made sure voters had the final say in a constitutional amendment in 2008. It took Tuesday’s statewide vote, however, to open the door fully to casinos with all the offerings after the most expensive political advertising campaign in Maryland’s history. “It’s kind of a grand culmination of Maryland’s casino venture,” said James Karmel, a professor of history and a gambling analyst at Harford Community College. “It has been a long time coming.” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who worked to build support for a casino near Washington, said National Harbor could rival Atlantic City and even some places in Las Vegas. That’s because the 300-acre waterfront development that opened in 2008 already has hotels, restaurants, shopping and a convention center. “I think it will make us a premier destination place for entertainment, and that’s really what this is about,” Baker said, at a news conference last week. He said he expects the project to attract conventioneers and tourists who come to Washington. Voters approved Question 7 with 52 percent of the vote. “Starting today, MGM’s talented team of designers and resort experts begin work on our proposal for a great destination resort for the people of Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland,” Jim Murren, MGM’s CEO said early Wednesday after the vote. “In my mind, it will be elegant, it will be glowing, it will be a beacon, really,” Murren said at a breakfast meeting before the election with about 100 business leaders in Prince George’s County. Above all, the $800 million venue that he envisions atop a hill at National Harbor – with a view of the Washington Monument – would be “luxurious,” a word Murren used repeatedly. The architect would be world-class, he said, going through a PowerPoint presentation. The restaurants high-end. The spa fabulous. The shopping could include the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Fendi. As for the entertainment: Saturday night fights and Madonna, just like in Las Vegas. The Prince George’s County casino can’t open until 2016. The casino planned by MGM would have up to 3,000 slot machines, along with table games. Voters who supported the ballot question Tuesday cited the importance of keeping gambling revenue in Maryland, instead of allowing it to flow to neighboring states like West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Supporters also noted job creation as a factor in their decisions. Although opponents said they voted against the expansion because they doubted a significant amount of the state’s proceeds from gambling would go to education as promised, supporters said it’s hard to rebut that the state needs the jobs and money. “Even if there is no new school money, I’m sure they need to replenish what they took, and if that’s what they need to do to get it, that’s what they need to do to get it,” said Amy Sheed, a Baltimore County resident who said she supported the ballot question Tuesday.