Jim Murren, the chairman and chief executive officer of MGM Resorts, said Wednesday that he remains confident that Maryland’s referendum on expanded gambling will pass but acknowledged the race is close.
“It’s closer than it should be,” said Murren, whose company is angling to build a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County. “I’m disappointed in that.”
Murren’s assessment came in an interview following a breakfast in Largo sponsored by the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce. During the gathering, Murren outlined his vision for an $800 million “luxury resort” on the banks of the Potomac and fielded questions about contracting and investment opportunities, job training and other issues.
Recent public polling has shown Question 7 either tied or losing. The measure on the November ballot would allow a new Las Vegas-style casino, as well as table games at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots sites.
Companies with a stake in the outcome, including MGM, have collectively contributed more than $40 million to a pair of ballot-issue committees coordinating a relentless ad war on television.
“In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a question on Question 7 because Maryland long ago opined on gaming,” Murren said, referring to voter approval of the five slots sites in 2008. “It just now has to decide whether it wants to be competitive in gaming, because it’s not today. West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware have passed it by.”
Murren also took a couple of shots at Penn National Gaming, the company leading the opposition to the expansion plan. Penn has contributed $21.6 million to the committee opposing the plan. MGM has spent $14.4 million in support of the plan, according to the latest disclosure reports.
“This wouldn’t be such a close race if not for one casino in West Virginia spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves confusing the issue and trying to tell people in Maryland how to vote,” Murren said.
Penn owns a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that analysts say would take a significant hit if another large-scale venue opens in Maryland. Proponents of the measure have accused Penn of acting to protect its interests in Charles Town — a notion Penn denies.
The company also owns a smaller casino in northeastern Maryland and a racetrack in Prince George’s that would be eligible to compete against National Harbor for a new license.
Murren said he was not surprised by Penn’s pace of spending on the ballot measure, citing its involvement in other state campaigns that affected its business interests.
“They’re very adept at political campaigns,”Murren said. “We’re very adept at running luxury resorts.”