Parx casino owners offer $100 million in improvements to Indian Head Highway

The promises from casino owners to Maryland residents keep coming.

Two days after a competitor offered to return all its gambling profits to the state in exchange for Maryland’s sixth and final casino license, owners of a Greenwood Racing affiliate pledged to fund $100 million in improvements to Indian Head Highway and build an $800 million casino that they said would provide a more forceful economic boost to the community.

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See previous stories exploring the changing casino industry and gambling culture in Maryland.
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See previous stories exploring the changing casino industry and gambling culture in Maryland.

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Greenwood, which operates a 165,000-square-foot Parx casino outside Philadelphia, jumped into the race to build a casino in Prince George’s County after buying a 22-acre wooded area on Old Fort Road in Fort Washington for $1.4 million.

The property is across the street from a Giant Food store and fast-food restaurants, in an area that Tony Ricci, Greenwood chief executive, said was ripe for redevelopment should Greenwood win the license to open a Parx casino, resort and spa there.

Greenwood offered to fund up to half of $200 million in improvements to Indian Head Highway, which Ricci said would include two overpasses and connections to the casino and future development. He said that unlike proposals for casinos at Rosecroft Raceway and National Harbor, Parx would be insulated from residents and drive new development.

“This area of Prince George’s County is ripe for additional development,” Ricci told members of the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Committee on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s something that the other two applicants really don’t possess.”

The Parx Casino Resort & Spa would have 4,750 slot machines; 170 table games, including a 50-table poker room; a 250-room hotel; and 5,000 parking spaces. Ricci said it would be modeled after the company’s casino outside Philadelphia, which has created more than $1 billion in tax revenue. He showed a promotional video featuring former Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell (D) saying Parx had been great for his state and, “given the opportunity, they will be great for Maryland as well.”

After buying 22 acres in June, Ricci said he acquired an additional four acres this week and was trying to acquire a Pepco property next door. But he said the casino required only 11 acres to provide a buffer with the community. An Episcopal church and a few residences are behind the site along Livingston Road. Ricci said the casino would create almost 5,000 permanent jobs, pay the state a $28.5 million license fee and retain only 33 percent of slots revenue.

Commissioners asked Ricci whether state highway officials were on board with a public-private partnership for highway improvements. He said he had discussed the idea with state and county officials and was optimistic that the timing and funding could work. “This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often,” he said.

Parx’s owners includes two Fort Washington residents, Thomas Taylor Jr. and Ronnie Elam, who said the Parx project would benefit their neighborhood in a way that they thought nearby National Harbor had not. With Fort Washington, Elam said, “we have a beautiful car, but it’s not going nowhere because we don’t have an engine.”

Greenwood was the second of the three bidders for the casino license to present their proposal to the commissioners and community. Penn National Gaming proposed a $700 million Hollywood Casino at Rosecroft on Monday and MGM Resorts International is scheduled to present its plans for National Harbor on Friday.

 
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