Harford County Executive David R. Craig has asked a work group appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to consider allowing a casino to open in that jurisdiction despite the proximity of an existing slots parlor in neighboring Cecil County.
Craig, considered a likely candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2014, sent a letter to panel chairman John Morton III asking that a Harford location be put on the agenda. At its first meeting last week, the panel focused a proposals to locate a sixth casino -- in addition to the five allowed under current law -- in Prince George's County.
O'Malley named the panel last month to conduct a quick study of options for expanding gambling beyond the slots-only casinos permitted in Perryville, Ocean Downs, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore and Rocky Gap in Allegany County. The work group is attempting to reach consensus around a plan that could be put to a vote in a special session of the General Assembly. O'Malley has said that if a deal can be achieved, he would call lawmakers back to Annapolis July 9 for what would be the second special session of the year.
In his letter, Craig told Morton that a Harford casino would generate tens of millions of dollars for the state as well as providing a new source of revenue for the county to help make up for the legislature's recent decision to shift a large share of teacher pension costs from the state to the counties. Craig said he favors enabling legislation that would let Harford voters decide whether they want a casino in the county.
Craig acknowledged there might be concerns about locating a new casino close to the existing Hollywood Casino in Perryville, directly across the Susquehanna River from Harford. But the executive said that having "two first-rate gaming facilities" in Northeast Maryland would help make the region a "tourism hub" that could compete for visitors with nearby states.
The executive asked that the state's consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, expand its current study of the gambling market to include a Harford location and expressed a desire to make a presentation to the work group, which will meet again June 12.