As lawmakers prepare to consider expanded gambling at their special session Thursday, one major player is crying foul, saying the fix is in for its main competitor.
The proposal for a new gambling location in Prince George’s County still would need voters’ approval and face an open bidding process. But Penn National Gaming — owner of Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and the Hollywood Casino Perryville slots parlor — says the dice are loaded in favor of MGM Resorts International and National Harbor.
“Penn is opposed to the legislature taking this matter up in a special session as it is apparent that the deal is done and in favor of a National Harbor site,” spokeswoman Karen Bailey wrote in an email to The Gazette.
The Wyomissing, Pa., gambling company has pushed for a slots license in Prince George’s since purchasing Rosecroft through a bankruptcy auction last year, and the legislation before lawmakers could allow slots at Rosecroft.
But Bailey has said Penn officials think the local and state government support for the nearby National Harbor site leaves Penn at “an impossible disadvantage.”
Bailey cited Penn Chairman Peter Carlino’s letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on July 23: “To the best of our ability and to the limits of our corporate resources, we will furiously to stop this rush to create an exclusive opportunity for National Harbor ...”
She said Penn would not comment on the specifics of those “resources” or whether they would be deployed during the special session or a potential November ballot effort.
Push for minority business participation
Meanwhile, the Prince George’s County Contractors and Business Association in Camp Springs continues to blast the National Harbor effort with an intense public relations campaign, urging residents to contact their representatives and warning against any “special treatment” for any casino in Prince George’s.
A recent letter from the association rallies support for numerous minority business participation requirements at the project. These include 35 percent minority equity ownership participation with local preference requirements and 35 percent minority contracting participation with local preference and local hiring goals.
Joseph Gaskins, chairman of the association, said his group’s other recommendations, including allowing operators to propose locations within a 2-mile radius of Interstate 495 between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and U.S. 50, speak to the issue of minority business participation. Both Rosecroft Raceway and National Harbor are in that area.
“It’s why we’re insisting on a fair and open bidding process,” he said. “If you only have one bidder coming to the table, you have to take what they give. If you have more, they can elect to meet certain requirements.”
Gaskins, who also is CEO of the Economic Development and Training Institute in Camp Springs, which faced foreclosure in March, said funding for its campaign comes from members.
The association also has spoken out against MGM itself and has challenged National Harbor on its record of minority business participation.
In National Harbor’s four most recent contracts, its owner, the Peterson Cos. of Fairfax, Va., has had minority business participation exceed county requirements of 20 percent for two contracts, at 24.3 percent and 25 percent. Peterson has surpassed the goal of 30 percent for two others at 43 percent and 48 percent, according to a February report issued by Mirinda Jackson, Prince George’s County’s minority business enterprise compliance manager.
National Harbor and MGM tout their records
“We have a strong record of consistently meeting and in many cases exceeding every metric of success as established by Prince George’s County,” the Peterson Cos. said in a statement.
The company referred to Metropolitan Protective Services, Corporate Cleaning Solutions, Grace’s Mandarin and CECA as local minority-owned businesses that have benefited from National Harbor.
“We’re pleased that Governor O’Malley and the General Assembly are moving forward with this plan to bring thousands of new jobs to Prince George’s County and hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Maryland public schools,” the developer said. “We agree that now is the time for Prince George’s County to realize its major national market opportunity.”
MGM also has touted its record of $1.2 billion awarded to minority-owned and disadvantaged suppliers and $1.6 billion awarded to minority-owned construction contractors since 2001.
“We expect significant MBE participation at our projects, especially in Prince George’s, given that a large part of the population is minority. We would embrace the participation not only in construction but also in suppliers and employment,” said Phyllis A. James, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for MGM.
“When we establish business in a new community, we’re looking to be a fully responsible corporate citizen. We want to be part of the community,” James said, adding that it’s too early to discuss specific goals.
Rainy Hamilton, president of minority-owned Hamilton Anderson in Detroit, said his architecture company has garnered more than $40 million through working with MGM during the last 12 years, particularly on the MGM Grand Detroit. His work on CityCenter in Las Vegas grew the company from 75 employees to 150, he said.
“It allowed us to weather the recession,” Hamilton said. “It’s all about being professional. Know your craft and be client service oriented.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) also supports significant contracting with minority-owned companies for a National Harbor casino, said his chief of staff, Brad Fromme.
“We want to see robust MBE participation in this project,” Fromme said.