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Maryland Politics
Posted at 10:48 PM ET, 10/02/2012

Washington Redskins throw support behind Maryland gambling expansion

Proponents of expanded gambling in Maryland landed a major-league endorsement on Tuesday: the Washington Redskins.


The Washington Redskins play the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field in Landover on Sunday. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Redskins organization announced that it is supporting Question 7, which would allow a new casino in Prince George’s County as well as Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots locations.

Under the expansion plan on the ballot, bids for a new casino would be accepted from a swath of Prince George’s that includes National Harbor — the 300-acre mini-city on the Potomac River — as well as Rosecroft Raceway, the horse track in Fort Washington.

In a statement, a Redskins executive urged fans of the team, which plays its home games in Landover, to vote for the ballot measure next month.

“As members of the Prince George’s County business community, we see it as our obligation to speak out in support of major economic-development initiatives,” said Dennis Greene, president of business operations. “We believe Question 7 represents a tremendous opportunity . . . to create thousands of good-paying jobs, increase funding for public schools, and help provide dollars for other critical state and local government services.”

For years, the National Football League has kept a careful distance between its product — an estimated $9 billion industry — and gambling interests. Its rules for players, coaches and employees mostly concern sports betting.

An NFL spokesman said that the Redskins did not clear Tuesday’s statement with the league office but that the team didn’t necessarily have to.

“So long as a proposed casino would not include sports betting, there is nothing in our league guidelines that would prohibit a club from supporting this type of ballot referendum,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Sports betting is not authorized under Maryland’s gambling-expansion plan, which the legislature crafted in August.

The endorsement builds upon a relationship between the Redskins and National Harbor.

Last year, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, the anchor hotel at National Harbor, was named the “Official Home Hotel of the Washington Redskins.”

Players and staff members routinely stay there before home games, and fans are offered hotel packages and promotions.

The battle over the gambling-expansion plan is being waged by companies that have collectively contributed $34 million, fueling an ongoing ad war on television. Opponents say that promises about job creation and education funding are being overblown.

Penn National Gaming, which owns a large casino in Charles Town, W.Va., has been funding the opposition. Penn also owns Rosecroft, but company executives say that the deck is stacked against the award of a gambling license there.

That’s in large part, they say, because Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and others have championed National Harbor as a casino site.

People involved with the pro-gambling campaign said Tuesday that they expect the Redskins to play a visible role in the five weeks before the election but could not say what form that would take.

Also on Tuesday, a group of religious and community leaders held a rally voicing opposition to a casino in the county.

By and  |  10:48 PM ET, 10/02/2012

 
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