Share

Casino companies prepare for expansion in Maryland

|
Photo - Gambling chips and roulette wheel (ThinkStock photo)
Gambling chips and roulette wheel (ThinkStock photo)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Maryland casinos are preparing for the addition of table games and 24-hour operation after state voters approved an expansion of gambling 52 percent to 48 percent.

Both table games and round-the-clock operation can start immediately, pending the completion of government regulations -- expected to come in early 2013.

"Maryland Live is prepared to immediately commence making the modifications required to add live table games and 24-hour gaming," Carmen Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County casino, said in an email. "We will make every effort to be operational as soon as feasible."

Gonzales said Maryland Live! will add more than 125 tables, including games like blackjack, roulette and craps, and hire for more than 1,000 new positions. The casino generated $30.6 million in revenue in October -- down from $32 million in September.

The state Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will decide on the timeline for bidding on the new Prince George's casino, which cannot open until July 2016.

MGM Resorts International, which contributed more than $40 million in support of gambling expansion, is the favorite to win the bid and build a planned $800 million luxury casino at National Harbor.

However, Penn National Gaming said it would "continue to aggressively push" for the casino to be at its Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from August.

Penn National, which also operates a casino in West Virginia that draws many Maryland residents and a slots site in Perryville, Md., poured more than $41.5 million into the fight against the expansion. Officials from Penn could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"We can get the best bang for our buck at National Harbor," Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker said, calling it the "biggest development project the county has ever had."

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who opposed the measure, said a new casino won't mean any extra money for education. "Any education funding that goes into the Education Trust Fund is subject to being raided by the legislature," Franchot said. "That is what's happened historically; that inevitably is what will happen again."

Franchot called the outcome the most important development of the election next to President Obama's victory.

"On the heels of the $90 million that was spent on the campaign, almost all the legislators will be interested in currying favor with the casinos," he said. "That will forever change Maryland's political culture."

Meanwhile, other opponents have not given up the fight. A pending lawsuit looks to clarify whether the referendum needs a majority of actual voters or registered voters to pass.

"The issue has not been resolved, unfortunately, because we have serious reservations about the constitutionality of the process," said Kevin McLaughlin, a spokesman for the anti-expansion committee Get the Facts - Vote No on 7. "A lawsuit has been filed to this end, on behalf of the citizens of Maryland, and we intend to explore all of our legal avenues, as well."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment