11/07/2012 11:39AM

Maryland casinos to add table games; new casino authorized

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Maryland voters narrowly passed a referendum on Tuesday authorizing a new casino near Washington D.C. and allowing the state’s casinos to operate table games such as blackjack and roulette, according to state election returns.

The referendum was approved by 52 percent of the state’s voters after a television campaign by supporters and opponents of the measure costing $90 million. The referendum will allow the casinos to add table games by early next year. The new casino, which cannot open until 2016, was approved for Prince George’s County, where MGM Resorts has said it wants to spend $800 million on a casino resort.

Racetracks and horsemen in Maryland receive a share of casino revenues, but the cut is capped at $100 million a year, so the expansion of casinos in the state is not expected to have a dramatic impact on the subsidies. The referendum that passed had cut the racing industry’s share of the revenues from 7 percent to 6 percent, while keeping the cap in place.

The referendum had been opposed by Penn National Gaming Inc., the gambling company that owns a casino in Perryville, Md., and another casino in West Virginia. According to its financial statements, Penn National had spent $19.5 million through September in opposition to the referendum, which will create competition for its existing properties.

* In other election-day news that could have a bearing on racing, Republicans in Kentucky picked up a seat in the state Senate to widen its majority in the body to 23 of the 38 seats, including an independent that caucuses with the party. In the state’s House, Republicans picked up four seats, slimming the Democratic majority to 55 of the 100 seats.

In Kentucky, Republicans have generally opposed efforts to expand gambling to racetracks, though the issue of expanded gambling in the state has also caused some legislators to cross party lines.