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Maryland Politics
Posted at 07:25 PM ET, 04/02/2012

For Prince George’s gambling opponents, a big week ahead

Gerron Levi, a former Prince George’s delegate turned anti-gambling activist, is planning a push this week to highlight opponents’ views that bringing gambling to the county is a bad deal.

Levi, who made an unsuccessful bid for county executive in 2010, has been working with ministers and civic organizations to try to promote the opposition in the face of legislation to allow a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s and add Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five other slots venues.

Levi says ministers and civic activists plan to descend on Annapolis on Tuesday to provide a petition opposing gambling in Prince George’s. It has the support of dozens of churches, ministers and community activists. Plans are also in the works for a political action committee that will raise funds to oppose gambling, she said.

She points to, among other issues, the growing number of casinos on the East Coast and their mixed record of delivering the local revenue promised, citing a recent gloomy Wall Street analysis for the gaming industry.

Citing a report from Morningstar, the investment analysis company, Levi said the prognosis for gambling sites is not great. A recent Morningstar report said that Penn National Gaming, which owns Rosecroft Raceway, one of the possible sites for the casino, “faces an onslaught of competition from new casinos that will negatively impact financial results for six of its seven highest-grossing casinos, which generate over 60% of revenue. We expect the opening of new casinos in those markets to lead to double-digit declines in revenue . . . for affected properties. We have a negative outlook on the regional gaming market due to maturation of the industry,and our expectation of intensifying competition.”

Still, there have been some sweeteners for Prince George’s, among them a decoupling of the funding for a proposed $600 million hospital for Prince George’s. The original bill had proposed using some of the gaming revenue to fund the hospital; now the state and county will have to find other sources, which they say they already have.

Within the Prince George’s House delegation in Annapolis, opponents have some sympathizers, including Del. Melony G. Griffith (D), the delegation’s chairman.

Griffith, who last week tangled with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) after a delegation meeting, is no fan of gambling. And she worries that the county would end up getting too little, too late, from the legislation, which will be aired in the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

“Because the expected revenue from this bill, if it were to pass, does not come to fruition until 2016 or 2017 under the best-case scenario, we need to work together to find a solution that meets the more immediate need,” she said.

Among her solutions: keep gambling out of Prince George’s and let locales such as Anne Arundel, where a site is soon to open, share more of the revenue with counties that may provide gamblers but have no gambling venue of their own.

“We would love to see the county receive a percentage of revenue from surrounding facilities who might be impacted, were there to be a facility in Prince George’s County,” Griffith said.

National Harbor has also been discussed as a possible casino site. Baker wants a high-end casino there.

By  |  07:25 PM ET, 04/02/2012

 
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