Pennsylvania casino owner makes surprise casino bid in Maryland

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Greenwood Racing's bid to build a Parx Casino in Fort Washington came as a surprise to many following Maryland's gambling saga, but company officials say the move had always been in the cards.

"We've had our eye on the Prince George's County area going back almost 15 years," Greenwood CEO Anthony Ricci said Wednesday. "We've always spoken about the opportunity some day presenting itself."

Greenwood is proposing an $800 million casino complex with 4,750 slot machines, 170 table games and a hotel with at least 250 rooms. MGM Resorts International, long considered the favorite to win the Prince George's County casino license, is planning an $800 million resort casino at National Harbor that would include 3,600 slots and 140 table games.

Penn National Gaming, the third bidder, has proposed a $700 million casino at its Rosecroft Raceway property in Fort Washington. Penn National's proposal includes only 500 slot machines, however, with 140 tables.

MGM and Penn National were the driving forces behind last year's battle over the casino ballot initiative, pouring more than $90 million into the fight over adding a sixth casino to the Free State. MGM already had announced its National Harbor plans, while Penn National, whose Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va., stands to lose millions from a Washington-area competitor, pushed back against the initiative.

Greenwood, which owns Pennsylvania's most profitable casino in Parx, located about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, didn't contribute to either side during the feud.

"When we saw that going on, we didn't really see a need to enter the fray," Ricci said. "They really didn't need anybody else throwing money at it. From where we sat, it appeared almost silly."

Missing out on the ballot fight, however, meant missing out on some local support. By banding together with the many proponents of expanded gambling in Maryland, MGM received public endorsements of its proposal from politicians and county officials.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker told the Washington Business Journal on Wednesday that he still supports MGM's bid, adding that Greenwood's planned location would require infrastructure work before construction could begin.

The National Harbor location has been a major part of MGM's pitch from the beginning. "Look around and you can see why we're here," said Lorenzo Creighton, the new president and COO of MGM National Harbor, when the company announced its bid at the proposed location last Thursday. "This site is unparalleled."

Ricci acknowledged that the company would have to work with local residents and leaders to convince them of Parx's merits after MGM's head start.

"We're very strong on community outreach and diversity and making sure the economy benefits from our inclusion in the neighborhood," he said. "We are a good neighbor."

The winning bid will be announced by the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission before the end of the year, though the new casino will not be allowed to open until 2016.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner