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Special session will tackle proposed casino expansion

Wednesday - 8/8/2012, 11:07am  ET

WASHINGTON - Will a new casino be coming to the National Harbor or Rosecroft Raceway?

Maryland legislators will meet in a special session Thursday to debate Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to expand gambling.

Despite all the flashy neon decorations and public art at the National Harbor, it isn't a shoo-in location if gambling is approved for Prince George's County.

Even if the General Assembly approves an expansion of gambling to allow table games statewide, the new Prince George's County site would have to be approved by local and state voters. If the proposal passes, a casino could open at the National Harbor by July 2016.

The legislation calls for a competitive bidding process that puts Rosecroft Raceway into the race as a possible gambling location.

The governor's proposal would allow for blackjack and roulette, as well as slots, but does not include Internet gambling. It would give tax breaks to existing slots parlors. And, a casino bidder could propose keeping up to 38 percent of the proceeds. State law now allows for operators to keep 33 percent.

An Anne Arundel County casino and one planned in Baltimore could get up to 5 percent more funds for marketing and capital improvements to help offset competition from Prince George's County.

Maryland voters approved five gambling locations after a bitter legislative battle in 2008. O'Malley's proposal would be the largest expansion since then.

In a news release, O'Malley said gambling could create thousands of jobs and provide new revenue for public schools:

"By finally resolving this issue of gaming in Maryland, we have an opportunity to generate more than $100 million for our #1 ranked public schools, create 2,200 additional, permanent jobs, and keep Maryland's facilities competitive with surrounding states."

In a YouTube video, O'Malley acknowledges the divisiveness of gaming, and says, "it's time to act and put this issue behind us."

Watch the video:

WTOP's Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Kristi and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)