Maryland Live owner teaming with rival operator in bid for N.Y. casino license


Maryland Live Casino parent Cordish is teaming with Penn National Gaming to bid on at least one New York gambling license — and possibly more. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

Casino licenses make for strange bedfellows.

Cordish Cos., which owns and operates Maryland Live Casino, announced Wednesday that it’s joining forces with rival Penn National Gaming to win approval to build a $750 million, Live-branded casino resort in upstate New York.

Baltimore-based Cordish is currently competing with Wymossing, Pa.-based Penn National (among others) for a gambling license in Philadelphia, and the two companies recently fought for the same slots-parlor license in Massachusetts, where Penn “narrowly edged” Cordish.

Penn, which opened Maryland’s first casino, Hollywood Perryville in Cecil County, also owns a Hollywood-branded casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia — its cash cow before Maryland Live landed in the middle of the region two years ago.

Now, the rivals are teaming up to try to win a license in Orange County, N.Y. If successful, the two companies would build a Live-branded casino and hotel on an undeveloped 120-acre parcel in the Village of South Blooming Grove, about 55 miles north of Times Square.

“Our companies are very familiar with one another and have a great deal of mutual respect,” Cordish chief executive David Cordish said in a news release. “New York will be the beneficiary of the marriage of two proven operators with the strongest balance sheets in the industry and an unparalleled track record in operating regional gaming facilities in competitive environments.”

Penn’s chief executive, Timothy J. Wilmott, said in the same release: “We’re proud to bring together the breadth of our experience in owning and operating 27 facilities in 18 jurisdictions across North America, with one of the world’s largest and most respected developers. We look forward to taking full advantage of our respective strengths to the benefit of our host communities and the state.”

There are already five Indian casinos and nine “racinos” (slots-only racetrack casinos) in New York. But voters in the state approved a dramatic expansion of casino gambling last November, authorizing up to seven full-blown commercial casinos, with live-action table games, hotels, spas, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Via the New York Times:

…the State Legislature, at the urging of [Gov.] Cuomo, has required that at first, only four new casinos will be permitted, and only upstate: in the Albany area, the Catskills-Hudson Valley region and part of the Southern Tier, a region along the northern border of Pennsylvania.

The Cordish-Penn partnership is focusing — for now — on the Catskills-Hudson Valley area.

“With convenient access to Interstate 87 and New York State Highway 17, this site is ideally situated to maximize the revenue potential for this region and the entire State of New York,” David Cordish said.

The casino resort would be owned and managed by a 50-50 joint venture between the companies. And it may not be their only play in the state: According to the release, Cordish and Penn “are also weighing the feasibility of several potential sites in and around Albany.” That property, the release said, “would feature Penn National’s Hollywood Casino brand.”

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.

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Tom Jackman · April 16, 2014