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O’Malley: Slot foes’ ads ‘a bunch of West Va. hooey’

ANNAPOLIS — Calling ads opposing Maryland’s expanded gambling referendum “a bunch of West Virginia hooey,” Gov. Martin O’Malley on Wednesday slammed Penn National Gaming Inc. and its CEO, Peter M. Carlino, saying that the Pennsylvania-based gambling company is deliberately lying to protect its business interests.

Penn, which owns Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W.Va. — the company’s most successful property, some analysts say — has spent more than $18 million on advertising in an attempt to convince voters that legalizing table games and allowing a casino to be built in Prince George’s County would not benefit public education, as proponents claim.

About half of Maryland slots revenue goes to the Education Trust Fund. If table games are legalized, 15 percent of that revenue would go toward education.

Technically, that rate could be altered in future years by the General Assembly. The state could also use the new gambling money to replace general fund money already backing education. Because of that, Penn has argued there is no guarantee there will be a net increase in education spending.

O’Malley said such a notion was “utter hogwash,” pointing to the state increasing funding for education 45 percent since 2006.

“They will say or do anything. I would have expected more from Mr. Carlino,” O’Malley said. “What’s the guarantee that a house won’t fall on Mr. Carlino tomorrow? …

“For those out-of-town slick folks to say otherwise, utter hogwash. … I think it’s sad and pathetic that Penn would run false ads that we’re not investing more in education.”

A Penn National spokeswoman deferred comment to Kevin McLaughlin, spokesman for the company’s campaign against Question Seven.

“These aren’t our assertions,” McLaughlin said. “They are independent media fact checks that have found the proponents’ promises of thousands of jobs and increased education funding just aren’t true.”

Penn National also owns Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County and spent $2 million backing Maryland’s first foray into casino gambling in a 2008 voter referendum.