Thank you all very much. We've been able to come together, during this special session, to create a comprehensive solution to a number of outstanding issues facing Maryland's gaming industry.
All of us know very, very well how divisive this issue has been for us. But this bill incorporates suggestions from the General Assembly, and it's a fair compromise to put forth to Marylanders in a November referendum.
The key aspects of this bill are as follows:
Maryland voters will have their say in November on whether to authorize table games at current and future gaming sites.
The people of Prince George's County will be given the opportunity to decide at the ballot whether they want a sixth gaming site in their county.
This sixth site, should voters approve it, will be the product of a competitive, transparent, and locally controlled bidding process -- a process which will determine where, within the County, the new site will be located.
We will hold off on opening the 6th site -- should it be approved -- until current licensees have sufficient time to establish fair market competition.
We will establish an independent Gaming Commission and charge it with protecting our State's financial interests while ensuring that future decisions are based on sound economic data and expertise.
We will save Maryland taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year by transitioning ownership of slot machines from the State to the licensees.
This is what the bill does. Here's why we're signing it:
By acting now, we have the ability together to create thousands of new construction jobs in our State, and as many as 2,300 additional permanent jobs. And these are jobs that pay decent, family supporting wages.
By acting now, we also have an opportunity to secure additional revenue for Maryland's #1 ranked public schools, with an increase of more than $200 million per year to the Education Trust Fund.
The compromise that we are putting forward will create predictability in the marketplace; it will make Maryland's gaming program competitive with other states, and it will protect local and city aid being generated at current sites.
In summary, these changes open the door to greater job creation, greater revenue, and a greater bottom line for Maryland taxpayers. And in November, voters will have the ultimate say. Thank you very much.