The two sides in Maryland’s expanded gambling debate are sparring over one another’s out-of-state connections.
A new ad airing in support of Question 7 features Jonathan Ogden, a 6-foot-9 former Baltimore Ravens football star, towering over a much shorter Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D).
In the 30-second spot, Rawlings-Blake says West Virginia casino owners are trying to defeat Question 7, the ballot measure that would a new Prince George’s County casino, as well as table games at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots sites.
“That upsets me, and that upsets Jonathan Ogden,” Rawlings-Blake says. “And you don’t want to upset Jonathan Ogden.”
“No you don’t,” Ogden says with a grin.
Rawlings-Blake is referring to Penn National Gaming, the company that has put close to $30 million into a campaign to defeat Question 7. Penn’s properties include a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that analysts say would take a financial hit if another large-scale venue opens in Maryland.
Penn apparently isn’t amused. The ballot issue committee that the Pennsylvania-based company is funding, dubbed “Get the Facts -- Vote No on 7” put out word Tuesday that Ogden lives in Las Vegas, even including a link to photos of his home.
Kevin McLaughlin, a spokesman for the committee, said he is “not sure why Maryland residents would care what someone who lives in Las Vegas thinks about Question 7, but proponents must be pretty desperate if they need to buy an endorsement from a celebrity that lives 2,400 miles away.”
Kristen Hawn, a spokeswoman for the Question 7 proponents, whose committee is called For Maryland Jobs & Schools, fired back.
“Does the West Virginia casino company really think the way to win an election is to attack one of the greatest Ravens in team history?” Hawn said.
She noted that Ogden, who is widely considered a future Hall of Fame inductee, has a home in Baltimore County and a charitable foundation in the area.
The largest funder of Hawns’s committee is MGM Resorts, the Las Vegas-based company angling to build a casino at National Harbor.