The company that spent millions to stop an expansion of casino gambling in Maryland may now want to participate in it.
Jim Baldacci, Penn National Gaming Inc.’s deputy chief compliance officer, attended a meeting on Wednesday for businesses interested in bidding on or otherwise working with the future operator of a casino in southern Prince George’s County.
The Wyomissing, Pa.-based casino company spent $44 million campaigning against gambling expansion in Maryland, which was narrowly approved by voters in November. Penn felt a rival casino company — MGM Resorts International Inc. — had been given a leg up in the license competition.
Baldacci deferred comment to Penn National’s press office. A spokeswoman said the company had “no additional updates” on whether it would bid for the license. Michael Arrington, employed by Penn National as a lobbyist as recently as last year, also attended the meeting.
Penn National has previously expressed interest in building a casino at Rosecroft Raceway — which the company already owns — in Fort Washington. If Penn National decided to bid on the license and won, it would have to relinquish a license it already holds in Cecil County. The company operates Hollywood Casino Perryville, which next week could become the first Maryland casino to offer table games such as blackjack and roulette.
As expected, MGM also attended the meeting at Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency headquarters. The company has cut a deal with National Harbor developer the Peterson Cos. to build a resort casino at the mini-city should it win the Prince George’s license. MGM spent more than $40 million combatting Penn’s efforts leading up to Election Day.
In a statement, Lorenzo Creighton, president and COO of MGM’s National Harbor venture, confirmed the Las Vegas-based casino resort company would compete for the Prince George’s license.
“MGM is committed to earning this license by proving our capabilities and demonstrating our track record of success in developing properties across the country,” Creighton said. “In the weeks and months ahead, we look forward to making the case to Maryland officials that MGM is the clear choice to bring a world-class destination resort to Prince George’s County.
“We remain enthusiastic to submit our proposal in advance of the May 10 deadline.”
Lottery officials said it did not appear that companies other than MGM and Penn National were potentially interested in bidding on the license.
More than 20 companies, including staffing firms and minority-owned construction contractors, attended Tuesday’s meeting, billed as an opportunity to network with prospective casino licensees. MGM has said 2,000 temporary employees would be hired to build a casino at National Harbor, and that the casino would ultimately provide 4,000 permanent jobs.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III identified National Harbor as the perfect site for a casino last year, after the county said it wasn’t interested in a casino under former Executive Jack B. Johnson. State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat who represents part of Prince George’s County — already a supporter of gambling as a state revenue source — lobbied hard for the General Assembly to pass legislation to authorize construction of a casino in the county. The Senate passed two bills that would have done just that.
But when the House of Delegates declined to follow suit, a budget accord among Democratic leaders fell apart, forcing a special legislative session to pass parts of the agreement that died at the end of the regular 90-day session in April.
After a summer work group convened by Gov. Martin O’Malley to forge consensus on gambling expansion failed to produce a deal, O’Malley decided to call lawmakers back to the State House in August anyway, and asked them to put an end to the gambling debate by passing an expansion bill.
After days of closed-door negotiations, a bare majority of the House finally agreed to legislation that created a Prince George’s County casino license, legalized table games at every Maryland slots parlor and made a host of other changes to the state’s gambling regulations.
Formal bids to build and operate the casino are due on May 10, and a license could be awarded in December. The casino would likely open in mid-2016.