[This post has been updated twice.]
An attorney for the group that wants to open the Parx Casino in Maryland has asked the state’s casino-location commission to extend its proposal review period and delay its licensing decision.
The Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission is scheduled to meet Friday morning in Baltimore to discuss the three Prince George’s casino proposals and pick a winner.
But in a letter to the commission, Mark S. Stewart reiterated the Parx group’s concerns about the state’s independent consultants, whose reports favored the MGM National Harbor proposal in almost every category. “Given the substantial issues and questions with the consultant portion of this process,” he wrote, “the Commission should consider extending its review of the proposals.”
In a written statement, commission chairman Donald C. Fry didn’t directly address the request from Parx to push back the decision, saying only that the letter and a series of attachments “will be part of the information considered by the commissioners” when they choose the winning project.
In an addendum to his statement, sent by his staff on Tuesday, Fry said: “The Commission meeting will take place on Friday, December 20th.”
Parx chief executive Tony Ricci has called the consultants’ findings “fatally flawed,” taking particular issue with their revenue projections.
Consultants Will Cummings and Jim Oberkirsch – who came up with two sets of revenue projections separately, using their own models — believe MGM National Harbor would generate either $30 million or $102 million more than Parx in pretax gambling revenue in fiscal 2019. The consultants projected 2019 revenues of $713 million to $719 million for MGM and explained that its revenue potential is greater than Parx’s, in part because it is several minutes closer to Northern Virginia and the District.
The consultants defended their reports in a public teleconference on Thursday.
The Parx letter was delivered to the commission the following day.
In it, Stewart, the Parx attorney, responded in detail to questions raised by commissioners and the consultants. But first, he offered some general comments about the selection process.
“We are compelled to express our genuine frustration over the manner in which the consultant aspect of this process has been conducted,” Stewart wrote. “The process has not served the Commission well. The Commissioners, though thoughtful and dedicated as they are, do not have experience in developing and operating gaming businesses and have been presented with voluminous, esoteric, number-filled (and at times internally inconsistent) consultant reports. Naturally, the Commission members’ review of these reports has raised significant questions. Parx Maryland clearly shares some of those same questions.
“However, the discussion of those questions has been limited and stunted. Questions raised are not answered. Instead, the same conclusions that prompted the questions in the first instance are simply reiterated or repackaged.”
Stewart added: “We urge the Commissioners not to suspend common sense in evaluating these reports. If findings or conclusions sound unbelievable, that is because they are unbelievable. If it sounded like Commissioners’ questions were not answered during the conference call, that is because they were not and because, for some of these consultant contentions, there simply is no plausible answer nor explanation.”
In his statement Monday, Fry wrote: “The sufficiency of the answers provided by the consultants to the questions posed by the Commissioners or applicants rests with the members of the Commission. Likewise, the ultimate decision regarding the Prince George’s county casino location rests entirely with the members of the Commission who will consider all information received from the applicants and the consultants, the commissioner’s personal observations, assessment of the proposals, and public comment.”
A Prince George’s County casino was part of a dramatic expansion of gambling approved by Maryland voters in 2012. Four casinos are already operating in the state, with a fifth — Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore — scheduled to open in the second half of 2014.
The Prince George’s casino would not open until mid-2016.