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Maryland Politics
Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 07/26/2012

Gaming executive alleges ‘sleazy’ process in Maryland

An executive with Penn National Gaming this week accused Maryland officials of running a “sleazy process” as they consider whether to allow a new casino in Prince George’s County.

Penn already operates one casino in Maryland, in Cecil County, and has been vying to build another at Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track it owns in Prince George’s County.

That plan has been overshadowed in recent months by a proposal backed by Prince George’s County Rushern L. Baker III (D) to build a high-end casino instead at nearby National Harbor, the 300-acre mini-city on the banks of the Potomac River.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans to announce a special session on expanded gaming by the end of the week.

“It’s safe to say that we have viewed the process from the very beginning as just a sleazy process that has unfolded in Maryland,” Eric Schippers, senior vice president for public affairs, told investors and analysts during a Tuesday conference call on the company’s second-quarter earnings.

“We have been on the outside looking in throughout this process due to what can only be described as a backroom deal between National Harbor and the county executive,” Schippers said, according to a transcript of the call. “And now shockingly, the governor is the one who is doing a full-court press to try to bring about a deal that by anybody’s measure is a sole-source contract for National Harbor. So hopefully, that captures ... the level of disgust we have with this process that has unfolded.”

O’Malley has said his main interest is finding a compromise to put the divisive issue of gambling behind him during the remaining two years of his term. Aides have said in recent days that a casino plan will likely allow bids from locations in a swath of Prince George’s that includes both National Harbor and Rosecroft.

But Schippers said that does not satisfy the company’s concern.

“Even if they do come out with a competitive bid process, we think it’ll be less than competitive,” Schippers said. “It’s already been handicapped for the other guys. And we’re going to continue to fight to try to prevent the special session, and then ultimately, if it gets to the ballot, we have no choice but to fight it, given our level of investment at Rosecroft.”

Schippers was referring to a statewide ballot measure that would be required following legislative approval to authorize a Prince George’s casino and another plan to also allow Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five existing slots sites.

Schippers’s sentiment was consistent with the tone of a letter sent this week to O’Malley by Peter M. Carlino, the chairman and chief executive officer.

“To the best of my ability and to the limits of our corporate resources, we will fight furiously to stop this rush to create an exclusive opportunity for National Harbor until we have assurances that Rosecroft will be part of the mix of any expanded gaming in Prince George’s County,” he wrote.

By  |  10:45 AM ET, 07/26/2012

 
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