In addition to all of political elections, voters in Maryland and Rhode Island had a casino related initiative on their ballot. Players in both states were asked to approve expansion of gambling in the form of new table games. Both states already offered slot machines in cooperation with their state lotteries at local racetracks, known as racinos. The already approved games at these racinos include traditional slots, video poker and video versions of table games. These games were available at both state’s racetracks. The proposal asked voters to approve table games found in Las Vegas style casinos to these tracks, including blackjack, craps, roulette and live poker.
Maryland Casino Vote
Voters in Maryland narrowly approved the expansion of table games in their racinos. Nearly $90 million in advertising was spent on the campaign from both sides in Maryland. MGM Resorts financed the proponent side. In an unusual twist, another casino company financed a large portion of the opposition. Penn National spent over $40 million trying to fight the addition of table games and poker in Maryland.
It was not that Penn National is against gambling in Maryland. The company was excluded from the proposed gambling expansion. The company owns the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. The expansion of gambling in Maryland was certain to hurt the gaming revenue there. Penn National is hopeful that a court challenge will nullify the vote. If the courts allow the referendum to stand, casinos should be live in 2016.
Opponents feel that a majority of Maryland registered voters must approve gambling expansion in the state as required by the state’s constitution. This means that not just half of the voter turnout had to approve it in their opinion, opponents feel that a majority of registered voters must approve Maryland table games. This would mean that 65% of voters that showed up on Tuesday had to vote yes. That did not happen. It remains to be seen what will happen in Maryland, but for now the expectation is that the process will move forward.
Rhode Island Casino Vote
The casino expansion ballot initiative was different in Rhode Island. Not only did the state’s voters have to approve table games, each of the two city’s voters where racinos are located had to approve it as well. Each town had a separate vote that was not related to the other. Voters in Lincoln approved table games at their local Twin Rivers Casino. Voters in Newport rejected table games at Newport Grand.
State voters overwhelmingly approved the right for these cities to vote on the casino expansions. This means that the Twin Rivers vote is binding and table games, including live poker, will go live in the coming months.
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