Prince George's executive wants gambling at National Harbor

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is betting big: Place Las Vegas’ famed Bellagio casino along the Potomac River and reap the benefits of what could be the most profitable gambling resort in the state.

Baker said Thursday afternoon he is willing to bring slots and table games to Prince George’s County, but only if the development matches the grand scale of Las Vegas’ finest casinos and is located at National Harbor.

Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington has been discussed as a potential casino site in Prince George’s County for years, but Baker’s administration determined the best location in the county would be National Harbor, a convention destination where the transportation infrastructure is already in place to handle an estimated six million annual visitors, according to an analysis by Business Researchers and Economic Advisors.

The study, commissioned by Baker, found that a resort destination casino along the Potomac River could generate an estimated $309.5 million annually in state and county taxes.



“A destination that has the ability to attract people from not only the region, but from around the country, is the model that makes sense for Prince George’s County,” said Brad Frome, Baker’s deputy chief of staff. “And the place where this model can succeed is at National Harbor.”

Baker and the Peterson Cos., which owns National Harbor, say a $1 billion investment is required to build a multi-dimensional entertainment venue and hotel in the same vein as the site’s current offerings, such as the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

“County Executive Baker has now unveiled a bold vision of an international-class destination casino/hotel resort that would attract visitors from all over the country and the world,” officials said in a joint statement from Peterson and Gaylord Entertainment. “We fully and enthusiastically embrace his proposal and are committed to facilitating such a development.”

The current legislation – introduced by Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters and which would require a voter referendum in November – also would allow a casino at the Rosecroft harness-racing track.

Penn National Gaming bought the recently bankrupt racetrack last summer, and officials have made it clear the track will not survive without slots revenue.

But that would have to change for Baker to support the bill. The county executive offered a host of other amendments as well, from removing a provision that links revenue to a proposed $600 million medical center to be built in Prince George’s to a $50 million minimum of revenue projected for the county.

A local tax also must be applied to table games, according to Baker’s administration. The current bill taxes only slots revenue.

It will likely take a lower tax rate on gambling to allow a Las Vegas-style casino to thrive in Prince George’s, according to the analysis, meaning the state’s existing tax structure for slots would have to be overhauled. Only states such as Nevada and New Jersey, which have some of the lowest tax rates in the country, are currently economically feasible for a destination resort.
 

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner