With less than a month before public hearings begin on the site selection for a new casino in Prince George’s County, the three companies vying for a single license have been ramping up outreach efforts in nearby communities.
All three — Pennsylvania-based Greenwood Racing Inc. and Penn National Gaming Inc., as well as Nevada-based MGM Resorts International Inc. — see connections to local businesses as an integral component of their proposals.
The selection process will begin with suitability hearings Oct. 10. Following those results, the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will conduct site visits and hold public hearings for each proposed casino on Oct. 21, 23 and 25.
The extent to which the final decision, expected by the end of the year, will rely on community relationships is uncertain. Evaluation of the three proposals will be based 70 percent on market and business factors, 15 percent on economic development factors, and 15 percent on location, said Donald C. Fry, the commission’s chairman.
Still, each of the bidders is making a significant push to establish community presence.
Greenwood Racing Inc.
Officials with Greenwood Racing Inc. say a Parx Casino would bring new life to the business community in Fort Washington.
A residential location like that is the best option, they say, based on their experience with a Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa., near Philadelphia.
“We have arrangements with the local businesses and there’s been an explosion of growth for the local businesses” in Bensalem, said Greenwood Racing CEO Anthony Ricci. “That’s what we’re looking to recreate in Fort Washington.”
Bensalem businesses have enjoyed the boost from Parx Casino, said Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce President Dan Bates, and since the casino opened in 2009 the number of nearby restaurants has increased notably.
Andrew Colbert, owner of Brooks Colbert Group, LLC and a member of the Indian Head Highway business community, said he has noticed outreach from Greenwood, and that a Parx Casino would be “the type of catalyst we need in this part of South County.”
MGM Resorts International Inc.
MGM Resorts International Inc. finds confidence in its proposed location at National Harbor, as well as its resources in Las Vegas.
“We can leverage all of those things we have in our Las Vegas properties to bring them here,” said Lorenzo Creighton, president and chief operating officer of MGM National Harbor. “It will replicate the design of those things and the look and the feel of the metro area.”
Last week, MGM held information sessions in Upper Marlboro to connect with community businesses.
“We embrace every community that we’re in,” said Creighton. “I think that gives MGM an edge.”
But the real edge is in the location, he said, which is visible from Interstate 95 and the Potomac River and is easily accessible from the interstate.
Penn National Gaming Inc.
Penn National Gaming Inc. touts its existing involvement in the state, and says an additional Hollywood Casino at Rosecroft Raceway would have an unmatchable entertainment value when paired with the existing horse racing attraction. The company owns and operates the Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, the first casino to open in Maryland.
As a current member of the Prince George’s County community, Penn National has reached out to its neighbors, said Vice President for Public Affairs Karen Bailey, but its efforts at Rosecroft Raceway are often overlooked. Most recently, the raceway hosted the Asian Festival.
“We’re an existing company, we’re an existing business,” she said. “We were able to reinvigorate and reopen the facility. … We’ve been a part of that community for years.”
Bailey also said that during the October hearings, Penn National will be revealing some new information about its plans for Rosecroft Raceway that will add “significant considerations” for the commission.
MGM’s confidence thus far has been irksome, Bailey said. Her company fought against gambling legislation last year because it felt that the process “favored certain operators,” namely MGM, which put more than $40 million into the campaign for the legislation.
But the decision process underway has been created specifically to avoid a political choice, Fry said.
“The commission was not involved in the referendum or special legislation or anything of that nature,” he said. “The legislature wanted these decisions to be made based on various factors but they did not want politics to come into play.”
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller initially supported the Rosecroft site and later said the other bidders also could have viable proposals. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed support for the National Harbor site.
Now, both say they now want to stay out of the process.
“County Executive Baker has been well-established on the record of what he would like in terms of a gaming facility,” said spokesman Scott Peterson, but “Mr. Baker ultimately respects the commission and the state processes for deciding what is best for the county and the state.”
No matter the commission’s decision, losing bidders will likely continue to contest, Miller said.
“We’re a long way from home, there’s going to be numerous lawsuits filed … it’s going to cost people a lot of money in litigation they shouldn’t have to endure,” he said. But “it has nothing to do with a fair fight or even playing field. It’s about dollars.”