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Maryland Politics
Posted at 05:01 PM ET, 06/12/2012

Md. has room for another casino, analysts say


One of the 3,200 slot machines at work on opening night at Maryland Live! casino. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
Maryland’s gambling market is large enough to support a new casino in Prince George’s County, according to a group of nonpartisan analysts from the state legislature and a private consulting firm.

“Significant additional revenues could be generated,” Warren Deschenaux, the chief fiscal analyst for the General Assembly, said Tuesday. “The market is not saturated.”

That finding, reached with consultants form PricewaterhouseCoopers, was presented to a work group launched by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that is examining the wisdom of adding a casino site and authorizing Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five existing slots locations.

The analysts also concluded that even with the additional competition, operators of the five previously authorized casinos could make more money by adding table games.

Those findings seemed to bolster the case of Prince George’s Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and other boosters of a plan for a casino at National Harbor, the mixed-use development on the banks of the Potomac River.

Appearing before the work group, Baker continued to press his case Tuesday, saying his preferred site “makes all the sense in the world.”

Milton V. Peterson, developer of National Harbor, told reporters outside the meeting room that he plans to announce in coming days a major gaming company that would operate a National Harbor casino.

The chief opponent of that plan is the developer of Maryland Live!, a casino that opened last week in Anne Arundel County to enthusiastic, overflow crowds (including a few dozen lawmakers).

On Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R) also appeared in Annapolis to argue that a sixth casino would not be fair to the developer of Maryland Live!, who invested more than $500 million in their facility.

“To change the rules at this time would be an egregious breach of faith,” Leopold said.

The developer, the Cordish Cos., criticized the role legislative staff played in developing the analysis presented Tuesday, knocking the “unreliability” of its revenue estimates in the past.

If the work group — made up of administration officials and legislators — can reach a consensus, O’Malley has said he will call a special session of the legislature the week of July 9. Advocates of expansion would like to get needed voter approval for a plan in November.

A Senate-backed gambling expansion plan died in the House on the final night this year of the legislature’s 90-day session.

In an interview Tuesday, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said a gambling expansion remains “a much tougher issue in the House.”

Any plan adopted by the legislature would have to treat existing casino owners with “a fundamental sense of fairness,” Busch said.

The work group is scheduled to meet again June 20.

By  |  05:01 PM ET, 06/12/2012

 
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