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Gambling commissioner wants close look at Penn National’s corporate plans

A rendering of Penn National Gaming Inc.'s plan for Rosecroft Raceway, if it wins Prince George's County's casino license.

The Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission plans to take a closer look at Penn National Gaming Inc.’s plan to split into two companies.

The Wyomissing, Pa.-based gambling company plans to cede control of its casinos (and other real estate) to a publicly-traded Real Estate Investment Trust called Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. The entity known as Penn National Gaming would retain the company’s operating assets.

In the split, Hollywood Casino Perryville would be owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties, freeing up Penn National Gaming — which would retain ownership of Rosecroft Raceway — to build a casino there if awarded Prince George’s County’s casino license by the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission.

State law prohibits a company from holding more than one casino license.

John W. Morton III, a new Lottery commissioner who also chaired a task force last summer to study expanded gambling, said he felt the commission needed “to be very careful.”

“The form I understand, with the REIT,” Morton said Thursday. “The substance, however, is something different.”

Penn National is one of three companies vying to build a casino in Prince George’s County, considered by many to be the premier location for such a facility in the United States.

MGM Resorts International Inc. has bid to build a resort casino at National Harbor. Greenwood Racing Inc. — owner of Parx Casino near Philadelphia and partners with the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. in a casino bid in Philadelphia — is seeking to build a resort casino in Fort Washington.

“Obviously, there is a lot of personnel and financial resources behind these bids,” Morton said.