Other states wary of Maryland casino expansion

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

A potential casino in Prince George's County already has one gambling company in the state crying foul, but the impact of the proposed facility could reach far beyond just Maryland.

The casino site at National Harbor, just south of the District and across the Potomac River from Virginia, could draw gamblers from states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where some officials have already begun to change their revenue projections as more casinos open.

Officials with MGM Resorts International, which is joining the developers of National Harbor to promise an $800 million investment for a high-end casino development, estimate that roughly 70 percent of gamblers at their casino would come from out of state.

Las Vegas on the Potomac
An $800 million casino facility at National Harbor could provide a host of benefits to the state, but only if lawmakers meet the conditions set by MGM and developers. Those include:
Benefits
• 4,000 slot machines
• 250 table games
• Luxury hotel, restaurants and retail
Jobs
• 2,000 construction jobs
• 4,000 full-time jobs
Conditions
• 52 percent tax rate on slots, instead of 67 percent
• 10 percent tax rate on table games

Jim Murren, chairman of MGM, said developers expect to draw on the more than 40 million visitors from across the country and world who come to D.C. annually, as well as from a strong gambling market in the Washington region.

"It's something everyone is keenly aware of," said Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. "There's competition all up and down the East Coast."

It's difficult to project what effect a single casino would have on Pennsylvania, McGarvey said, but officials from Delaware and West Virginia acknowledged that they have already started to take into account the potential revenues they will lose from the newly opened Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County.

A high-end facility at National Harbor may only add to those woes.

"In the end ,there's only so many discretionary dollars available," said Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery. "The economy seems to be bouncing back a little bit, but I hate to bet a few million dollars on it."

The developers of Maryland Live! are even more concerned about any effect on their new slots parlor and have cast doubts on a report by state analysts that Maryland can support another casino.

While Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters he will call a special session on gambling in early July, the fate of the Prince George's casino is far from certain.

The accord between MGM and the Peterson Cos., developers of National Harbor, is contingent on the passage of legislation that would authorize the state's sixth casino site, allow table games such as blackjack and roulette, and change what Murren called the "egregious" 67 percent tax on slots Maryland now levies.

Maryland voters also would have to approve an expansion of gambling on the November ballot.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner