Maryland businesses throw support behind gambling expansion -- Gazette.Net


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A group of Maryland businesses banded together this week in support of a plan to bring a major casino resort to Prince George’s County.

“9 for Seven” is a group of nine local companies that will urge voters to vote “yes” on the state’s seventh ballot question in November’s election. Question 7 asks whether the state should expand is gambling program to include Las Vegas-style table games at all licensed slots parlors and to allow a sixth casino site in Prince George’s. The law also would allow casinos to operate 24 hours a day.

“I have first-hand experience with the type of economic opportunity a project of this magnitude would bring to Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland,” Javier Torres, president and CEO of the Corporate Group, said in a statement. “A new resort casino would mean thousands of new, good-paying jobs across a broad range of industries, including construction, restaurant service, janitorial services, security and retail, among others.”

The Corporate Group is joined by Multicorp, Mona Electric, Metropolitan Protective Services, Grace’s Mandarin, Complete Landscaping, Wyndham, Tolin Mechanical and Coastal Properties Management, and all nine are contributing money to the Vote for 7 effort.

The ballot issue committee supporting the effort — For Maryland Jobs and Schools — is largely funded by MGM Resorts International of Las Vegas, which wants to build and operate a casino at the waterfront National Harbor complex in Oxon Hill. MGM so far has contributed $11.4 million to the campaign. CBAC, the Caesars Entertainment-led investment group behind the forthcoming Harrah’s casino in Baltimore, has put up $2.3 million, and Peterson Cos. of Fairfax, Va., developer of National Harbor, has ponied up $400,000.

Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing, Pa., which owns the Hollywood Casinos in Perryville and in Charles Town, W.Va., where many from Maryland go to gamble, has pumped $18 million into an opposing ballot issue committee, known as Vote No on 7. Penn National also owns Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track in nearby Fort Washington that it bought last year with hopes of securing a slots license there. But Penn officials claim the deck is stacked in National Harbor’s favor for a new casino.

Opponents argue that increased gambling revenue won’t necessarily mean an increase in education funding. They also say that the reductions to the state’s gambling taxes that would be enacted if the ballot issue is approved amount to a tax break for casinos — shortly after lawmakers raised income taxes for a number of higher-income Marylanders.

Supporters argue that a Prince George’s casino would create 2,000 construction jobs, 4,000 direct permanent jobs and 4,400 indirect jobs associated with the development; and table games would bring 1,600 new jobs across all the state’s casinos.

“A new resort casino would continue the record of success established here at National Harbor by creating thousands of jobs and drawing millions of tourists, business travelers and other guests to Maryland,” M.H. Jim Estepp, president and CEO of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, said in a statement. “At a time when we are desperately in need of new sources of revenue, we simply cannot turn our backs on this great opportunity.”

dleaderman@gazette.net