Casino groups fork out big lobbying bucks for gambling expansion

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

Maryland's top lobbyists cashed in on the General Assembly's casino debate this year, as the state's nine highest-earning lobbyists all worked for companies with interests in a statewide gambling expansion.

Gambling organizations and groups tied to Maryland's horse racing industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars between Nov. 1, 2011 and April 30, in an effort to influence lawmakers to support their respective interests.

Penn National Gaming, the owner of Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, spent the most, with 877,432.84 reported, according to the Maryland State Ethics Commission's twice-annual report.

Raking in casino dollars
The five top-earning lobbyists in Maryland between November 2011 and April 2012 all represent parties with a stake in the state's debate to expand gambling.
1. Gerard Evans, $1.23 million
2. Joel Rozner, $906,848.71
3. Lisa Harris Jones, $840,195
4. Bruce Bereano, $772,500
5. Michael Johansen, $728,195.69

The Pennsylvania casino group spent roughly $375,000 more than the next highest organization, the Maryland State Education Association.

Rosecroft appeared the most likely destination for a Prince George's casino before County Executive Rushern Baker threw his support behind a larger casino project at National Harbor. While the company tried to defend its interests in Maryland, it easily eclipsed spending by other gambling organizations in the state.

CBAC Gaming LLC, the group behind the bid for a Baltimore casino, spent $163,309.

The Cordish Cos., developer of the newly opened Maryland Live! Casino, spent $86,542.50 as it fights a proposed Prince George's casino.

And the Peterson Cos., developer of the Prince George's casino's likely destination, National Harbor, spent $61,367.64.

Lawmakers are still locked over a proposal that would add a sixth state casino site in Prince George's County and authorize table games such as blackjack and roulette.

Some lobbyists' six-month compensation nearly matched their earnings for the entire year prior to the latest report from the Ethics Commission, which ranks lobbyists who paid $50,000 or more.

Gerard Evans, the state's highest-earning lobbyist, raked in $1.05 million over the last six months -- not far off the $1.23 million he earned from November 2010 to October 2011.

"It's a debate that's unfortunately captivated the General Assembly in some way," Evans said, who lobbied on behalf of Penn National. "And anytime you have issues that are so important, you are going to have costs associated with it."

Evans' contract with Penn National ended in April, he said.

Other top-ranked lobbyists include Joel Rozner, who represents CBAC Gaming LLC and the Maryland Jockey Club; Lisa Harris Jones, another lobbyist for Penn National; and Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association, the parent company of the former owner of Rosecroft Raceway.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner