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Maryland Politics
Posted at 03:24 PM ET, 03/13/2012

Prince George’s casino bill to be back in spotlight

Legislation that would authorize a casino in Prince George’s County still faces tough odds in the Maryland General Assembly, but the measure will get a fresh round of scrutiny in the coming week.


The owners of Rosecroft Raceway are still angling to put a casino at the track. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post)
A House committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Friday, and senators say their chamber’s budget panel could vote on the legislation next week, sending it to the Senate floor for debate.

As written, the legislation would invite bids for a sixth Maryland casino from locations in a western swath of Prince George’s that includes both National Harbor and the recently reopened Rosecroft Raceway.


Shops, restaurants, hotels and residences are part of the National Harbor complex. (Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor)
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has made clear that his strong preference is National Harbor. But the owners of Rosecroft have not backed down.

In an advertisement that ran in several small newspapers last week, Prince George’s Racing Ventures, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming, argues that the track is the better location — in part because Penn National’s plan for a $300 million casino does not require a cut in the share of proceeds retained by the state.

Under Baker’s vision, the state’s current tax rate would have to be significantly reduced to make it feasible for a private company to finance a high-end, $1 billion dollar venue at National Harbor, the 300-acre, mixed-use development on the Potomac River.

In the ad, Pennsylvania-based Penn National also takes aim at the Peterson Cos., the Virginia-based developer of National Harbor, asking readers to contact their elected officials to let them know “you do not support more tax breaks for billionaires from Virginia.”

The ad appeared in several papers with distribution in Prince George’s, including the Gazette, the Prince George’s Sentinel and the Washington Informer.

Any expansion of gambling in Prince George’s would require approval by voters statewide. County leaders also want to craft a mechanism that makes the project contingent on voter support in the county, too.

Not all Prince George’s lawmakers are sold on the idea of a casino, and the notion is strongly opposed by Cordish Cos., the developer of what is envisioned as Maryland’s largest casino, scheduled to open in June in neighboring Anne Arundel County.

Baker is among those expected to make his case Friday in the hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee. The panel is also taking public testimony on a slew of other gambling bills, including a plan to put slots at Baltimore International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

House leaders have signaled that they do not intend to move any major gaming legislation before the Senate acts. Senators say they could start weighing a bill as early as next week that would also allow table games at existing slots facilities.

By  |  03:24 PM ET, 03/13/2012

 
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