As they waged a campaign for the White House, GMMB, the DCI Group and Mentzer Media Services, three of the largest media buyers for President Obama and for super PACs supporting Mitt Romney, bought air time for Question 7, as it was known.
In the end, voters approved the plan, which will allow not only a casino, most likely at National Harbor, but also table games such as blackjack and roulette at the state’s five previously approved slot-machine sites.
Those firms weren’t the only ones who benefitted financially from the unprecedented spending in Maryland. Former aides and campaign staffers of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) performed work for the pro-casino side of the fight, which was funded in large part by MGM Resorts, which is angling to build a Las Vegas-style casino and hotel that could tower over the southern end of Washington’s skyline.
Reid has an especially close relationship with MGM. The senator and the company have swapped employees, while Reid has interceded with Wall Street banks on MGM's behalf and company executives are Reid’s biggest campaign contributors.
Those with ties to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) benefited as well. The public affairs firm of O'Malley's former communications director and the brain trust of his 2010 reelection campaign reunited to help push the gambling expansion.
As often happens when gambling rights are at stake, the deluge of money from casino interests spilled far beyond the political class:
Nearly a half-million dollars went to the Washington Redskins for what a company spokesman said was advertising. Campaign filings show a payment of $450,000 went from the pro-casino side to the NFL team the day before it publicly endorsed the casino measure.
On the front lines, armies of door knockers and outspoken community leaders — including the mayor of Forest Heights, the small Prince George’s County community to the north of the likely casino site — were also paid.
And as in other states where church groups have been involved, a coalition that organized rallies and gatherings of African American clergy who urged a “no” vote partnered with a nonprofit group that took in $200,000 from the opposition campaign, public records and the campaign filings show.
“It sort of took on a life of its own,” said Alan Feldman, senior vice president for MGM Resorts International, which spent nearly $41 million to support the ballot measure and has proposed building an $800 million casino and resort at National Harbor.