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Penn National exceeds $40 million in campaign spending

Penn National Gaming Inc., the only organization spending money to oppose gambling expansion in Maryland, made official Friday what many have expected for months.

The Pennsylvania-based gambling company broke the $40 million mark in its most recent campaign finance filing, which shows Penn National has dumped $41.5 million into its campaign account to pay for advertising against Question 7.

If approved, Question 7 which would allow construction of a casino in Prince George’s County and table games such as poker at every Maryland casino.

The ballot issue committee Get the Facts – Vote No on 7 has spent $39.6 million of that money, according to Maryland State Board of Elections records.

By either measure, Penn National has now exceeded the $38 million it spent to kill a limited casino program in Ohio in 2008. The next year, Penn National spent more than $20 million supporting a more robust program that offered them an opportunity to bid on a casino license.

MGM Resorts Intentional Inc., the company that is expected to operate a Prince George’s County casino if Question 7 wins voter approval, has spent $29.5 million propping up the law passed by the General Assembly in an August special session. A group led by Caesars Entertainment Corp., licensed to build a casino in Baltimore, and a handful of developers have kicked in another $5 million to support gambling expansion.

MGM chairman and CEO James J. Murren, speaking with Daily Record reporters and editors Friday, said he was “surprised” by the “intensity of this ad campaign.”

James Karmel, a casino industry expert who also teaches history at Harford Community College, characterized the battle over Question 7 as “MGM Resorts versus Penn National.”

“Consider that a business investment by these companies competing for the [Washington,] D.C.-Baltimore gaming market,” Karmel said of the campaign spending. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the ad campaign is about.”