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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.)