The Washington Post

Penn National attends meeting for potential Prince George’s casino operators

Driver Jackie MacLeod takes a few laps at Rosecroft Raceway, a possible casino site in Prince George’s County. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Two representatives of Penn National Gaming attended a conference Wednesday for potential operators of a Prince George’s County casino but declined to say whether the company will compete against MGM Resorts for the license.

The gathering in Baltimore was hosted by Maryland regulators, who have given interested parties until May 10 to offer bids to operate the state’s sixth casino.

MGM, which spent more than $40 million urging Maryland voters to approve an expanded gambling plan last fall, has said it will apply to operate a “high-end resort” at National Harbor, the mini-city on the banks of the Potomac River.

Several MGM representatives and lobbyists, as well as a representative of the developer of National Harbor, were on hand for Wednesday’s session.

Penn National, which spent more than $40 million trying to persuade voters to kill the plan, has been more circumspect about its intentions. Despite its stance on the ballot measure, the company is considering offering Rosecroft Raceway, a horse track it owns in Fort Washington, as a casino site.

“At this point, we’re just looking at it,” said Jim Baldacci, Penn National’s chief deputy compliance officer. “We’re haven’t made a decision one way or the other.”

He was joined Wednesday by a Maryland-based lobbyist for the company, which has headquarters in Pennsylvania and operates 29 casinos and racetracks in the United States and Canada.

For much of the fall, a barrage of TV ads funded by Penn National argued that politicians who supported Maryland’s expansion plan were peddling false promises about education funding and that the plan was too generous to “casino special interests.”

Analysts said Penn National was motivated by a desire to protect a casino the company owns in Charles Town, W.Va., that stands to take a hit from a new Prince George’s location.

Penn National currently owns one casino in Maryland: Hollywood Casino Perryville, in the northeastern corner of the state.

Maryland has invited proposals for a Prince George’s casino located within a swath of the county that includes both National Harbor and Rosecroft. Bidders for other nearby locations could also step forward.

Robert W. Howells, director of procurement for the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, told potential bidders Wednesday that the state intends to award a license to build and operate a Prince George’s facility by the end of the year.

Under current law, the facility would be allowed to open in mid-2016.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.



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