Members of Gov. Martin O'Malley's work group on expanding gambling are meeting today behind shut doors in the House office building in Annapolis.
The group convened a little after 11 a.m. -- and members were mum on what was on the agenda. The next public meeting for the group is set for Wednesday.
Matt Gallagher, chief of staff to O'Malley, asked a reporter from The Baltimore Sun to leave saying the meeting was closed. A staffer for Senate Republican Leader E. J. Pipkin was also booted.
O'Malley named the 11-member work group to examine the issues surrounding adding a sixth casino in Maryland and allowing games at all facilities. They've held two open meetings. It is not clear whether the group has had other private gatherings.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the closed meeting is legal because the work group does not meet the strict definition of a public body. A lawyer with the office explained that the work group includes only one public member, Chairman John Morton III, while the rest are government employees. To meet the definition of a public body, the group would have had to have had a second public member, the lawyer said.
Regarding gambling expansion, one key topic still at issue is the proper tax rate on gambling proceeds. MGM Resorts International has said it will build a mega casino and resort in Prince George's County if the state expands there and if the General Assembly lowers the 67 percent tax rate to 52 percent.
The state's other casinos would also want the same lower, so it is unclear how lowering taxes on operators will effect the state's bottom line. Independent analysts have not run those numbers.
Members at the meeting included:
- John Morton III (chairing the group)
- Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden
- Sen. George Edwards
- Sen. Rob Garagiola
- Sen. Doug J.J. Peters
- Del. Sheila Hixson
- Del. Frank Turner
- Del. Pete Hammen
- Del. Eric Luedtke
- Del. Dereck Davis
- Del. Robert Costa
- O'Malley secretary of appointments Jeanne D. Hitchcock
- O'Malley Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management T. Eloise Foster
- O'Malley chief of staff Matt Gallagher
- O'Malley chief legislative officer Joe Bryce
- O'Malley deputy legislative officer Stacy Mayer
- Assistant Attorney General Bonnie Kirkland
Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this post.