Senate President says Penn National will spend $40 million to fight gambling expansion

Penn National Gaming Inc. pumped another $5 million into fighting Maryland’s gambling expansion Friday, a battle that will be decided by voters on Election Day.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said to expect the Pennsylvania-based gambling company to spend more than double the $18 million they’ve already committed to defeating Question 7, which would allow a casino in Prince George’s County and table games at every Maryland casino.

Penn National is the owner of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, a lucrative property that would see its bottom line hurt by a casino in the Washington, D.C. area.

“They are going to spend close to $40 million to keep [people] away from casinos in Maryland,” Miller said in a recent interview. “It’s West Virginia versus Maryland.”

Penn National, originally interested in operating slot machines at its Rosecroft Raceway property in Prince George’s County, turned against Maryland’s gambling expansion when MGM Resorts International Inc. emerged as the front-runner to operate the state’s sixth casino, probably at National Harbor near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to Virginia.

Miller said Penn National’s campaign against expanded gambling was trying to disguise the fact that it’s only interest is protecting its Charles Town Casino. The company also operates Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County.

A member of the Maryland legislature since 1971, Miller said he could not recall a more fierce statewide election. He said votes on expanded gambling, gay marriage, the Dream Act and congressional redistricting — the last three of which were petitioned to referendum by Republican opponents — would be close.

“The Maryland Democratic party supports all the questions,” Miller said. “But I’m not sure exactly how that will show up on the ballots.”

Eye Opener: O’s owner Angelos gets political

Just in case you’re not quite awake after last night’s late Ravens game, here’s an Eye Opener with some politics and government news:

 - The Baltimore Sun reports that Orioles owner and Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos has donated more than $1.2 million to Democratic Super PACs this year.

 - The Washington Post reports that Del. Justin Ross, a Prince George’s Democrat, is leaving the Maryland legislature.

 - reports that the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation overpays unemployment claims, according to a state audit.

The Gazette reviews laws set to go into effect Monday.

Lottery commission may have met for last time

(Photo: J. Kirby Fowler Jr., chairman of the Maryland State Lottery Commission)

Thursday morning may have marked the final meeting of the Maryland State Lottery Commission.

The nine-member panel will become the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission on Oct. 1, a change spelled out in the General Assembly’s expanded gambling legislation, passed and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in August.

The commission’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 18.

The name change means a reduction in commissioners — the new panel will have just seven members. Lottery Director Stephen L. Martino said the name change better reflects what the commission has done for the last several years, since voters approved Maryland’s casino program in 2008.

Members of the commission could either be reappointed or replaced. Martino said he was unaware of a timeline for such action.

J. Kirby Fowler Jr., chairman of the lottery commission, said he has had some discussions with the governor’s office about remaining a member of the panel. But, while he said he would like to stay involved, he stressed that no decisions had been made.

One change that does appear clear is that, if a majority of voters approve the legalization of table games such as black jack and a sixth state casino license for use in Prince George’s County, the busy Maryland State Lottery Agency will receive some much-needed reinforcements.

Gina Smith, deputy director and chief financial officer of the lottery, told the commission that expanded gambling meant expanded staff.

“You will see that our agency will grow significantly if that happens,” Smith said.

Charles LaBoy, the lottery’s assistant director for gaming, said that if voters approve Question Seven on Nov. 6, he would be ready to present a “package of regulations” dealing with table games, electronic bingo machines at veterans halls and similar machines at seven bars in Anne Arundel and Calvert counties legalized by SB 864 during the legislature’s regular session.

Board throws out city casino appeals

The Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals dismissed two appeals of the license for a future Baltimore casino Tuesday, untying the latest knot in the casino license’s litigious history.

Two appeals of the license awarded in July to CBAC Gaming LLC, a group led by Caesars Entertainment Corp., were filed in August. HarborWest Partners LLC filed one notice with the Board of Contract Appeals on Aug. 10 and Baltimore City Entertainment Group LP filed an appeal on Aug. 13.

BCEG is the casino company, led by Canadian homebuilder Michael Moldenhauer, which unsuccessfully bid to operate a city gambling site in 2009.

Both companies contend there were problems with the license’s Request for Proposals and the ensuing consideration of CBAC’s bid, conducted by the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission.

Robert T. Fontaine, counsel to the Maryland State Lottery Agency, called the appeals “wholly meritless” because neither group responded to the RFP, released in April 2011. The board agreed.

Both BCEG and HarborWest could still appeal the board’s ruling.

Meanwhile, CBAC Gaming named the general manager for its future Harrah’s Baltimore Tuesday at the casino site along Russell Street.

(Photo: The site of the proposed Harrah’s Baltimore casino on Russell Street)

Penn National wants to buy stake in Maryland Live?

Welcome back to the Eye Opener. Here’s a few government, business and politics-related headlines for Wednesday morning’s edition:


Eye Opener: University plans problem gambling center

Here’s a few government, business and politics headlines before you begin the move into weekend mode:

County executives take sides on expanded gambling

Maryland county executives are publicly picking sides on the state’s upcoming casino referendum, but most observers could have named the players on each team while blindfolded.

In a Baltimore Sun opinion piece, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold called expanding Maryland’s casino gambling program “unfair” to Anne Arundel County and Baltimore because casinos there will presumably lose some business gobbled up by a Prince George’s County casino.

While Leopold mentioned Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was a proponent of expanded gambling through the summer because CBAC Gaming LLC, led by Caesars Entertainment Corp., was eager to include table games in their proposed Russell Street casino.

Leopold’s comments were similar to those he made throughout the expanded gambling debate, during which he acted to protect Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall.

The General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley decided to pave the way to legalize table games and authorize a sixth Maryland casino, probably at National Harbor, anyway.

Just as unsurprising, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman voiced their support of expanded gambling Thursday.

All three took aim at Penn National Gaming Inc., owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W.Va. Penn believes that revenue at the West Virginia casino, visited by many Marylanders, would decrease if a casino is built at National Harbor.

The company is also frustrated that National Harbor appears set up to win an eventual bid for a Prince George’s casino license. Penn National owns Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, where it wants to build a casino.

Leggett’s language was most disparaging.

“When you see these despicable ads on television urging Maryland to reject Question 7, please understand that the people behind these ads are trying to deny us the opportunity to increase jobs, expand our tax base and create economic opportunity here at home,” Leggett said.

On Nov. 6, Maryland voters will decide whether to legalize table games at every state slots parlor and authorize the operation of a sixth casino. Every facility would also be allowed to stay open 24 hours a day if voters approve Question 7 on the ballot.

(Photo: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, left, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, right, were joined by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in publicly supporting expanding Maryland’s casino gambling program.)

Eye Opener: Franchot calls special session ‘secretive’

Here’s a few government and politics headlines around Maryland this Wednesday:

Eye Opener: Casino interests spent $900,000 a day in special session

Here’s a few headlines for Tuesday morning:

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast returns with the latest on the gambling and gay marriage ballot questions and the key difference in their fundraising techniques.

We also look at the chances of the General Assembly extending indefinitely the moratorium on fracking.