Gaming Companies Meet the Public in Prince Georges

The three gaming companies vying to build a casino resort in Prince George¹s County went before the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission and the public recently to make their cases as to why they should be awarded the lucrative gaming license.

Each of the companies hosted a site visit followed by a presentation at Fort Washington¹s Friendly High School before the video lottery commissioners. They wrapped up with a public hearing.

Penn National, which has proposed building the $700 million Hollywood Casino Resort at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, appeared on Oct. 21. The company¹s plan includes a 300,000 square-foot casino with 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games. There are plans to build a new grandstand for the horse racing track, restaurants, a 258-room hotel and spa and a 2,500 seat concert arena. Officials said the facility will generate 1,600 jobs and millions in tax revenues.

Greenwood Racing has proposed the $761 million dollar Parx Casino Hotel and
Spa entertainment complex to be built off Indian Head Highway in Fort Washington. Company officials announced at its session on Oct. 23 that it had just purchased four additional acres of land for a total of 26.

Greenwood promises 5,700 permanent jobs.

The Parx¹s plan includes 3,000 slot machines to start to increase to 4,750 by the year 2021. The facility would have 120 table games, 50 poker tables, a 250-room hotel and, like the other two, an entertainment and theatre complex and restaurants.

MGM National Harbor has proposed a $925 million dollar (up from $800 million) resort about a mile from National Harbor, just of I-95. It would include 3,600 slots machines, 140 table games, including poker, a 300-room luxury hotel, a theatre, a spa and other amenities. MGM National Harbor said they would hire 7,500 employees. Its session was held on Oct. 25.

The meetings provided the first opportunity for the commission to hear ³It¹s very important for us to do that,² said commission chairman Donald C.

Fry, ³because all we have received up to this point are mounds and mounds of
papers to sort through. And I don¹t think you can get a true reflection of w until you have seen the people face to face, until the public has a chance to say, "Hey we live here, this is what we are concerned about¹ or "This is what we like about these ideas.¹²

Fry said they expect to award the license by mid-December. The selection process is in the final stretch. The competition is ramping up and the bidders are sweetening the pot.

Penn National Gaming said that it would put nearly $320 million dollars into the county¹s health and education system if it gets the license.

Greenwood Racing said it will infuse $100 million into much needed local road improvements. For its part, MGM National Harbor announced it was bringing in Radio One Founder Cathy Hughes and her son, Alfred C. Liggins, III as investors. A company spokesperson said the duo plan to invest $40 million. Radio One owns or operates 54 radio stations targeting African-Americans and owns the controlling interest in TV One.

Tom Martin of Clayton, Md., told the AFRO that he supported the Parx site. ³They reached out to us and they said, "What are you guys worried about? What are your concerns? What are your expectations?¹ Let us know.²

Many residents spoke against the casino, saying one in any of the locations would exacerbate traffic problems and draw crime.

Said Bridgette Davis, of Fort Washington, who spoke against the Parx site: ³To have these people buy this property in a completely residential neighborhood and kick people out of their houses and come here talking about how they are gonna improve our lives with a casino is insulting to me.²

Another resident repeatedly referred to Nation Harbor as ³National Horror² and said current problems with traffic and noise would increase significantly if MGM got the license.

Claudia M. Bias of Fort Washington opposed any casino. ³I grew up in a family that believed in gambling,² she said, adding that her father lost whole paychecks, and ultimately their home, to gambling.

Carmela Goodall of Fort Washington took offense at the soundtrack for a video played by Parx Casino. It featured Teddy Pandergrass¹s song ³Wake Up Everybody.²

³To me that implies that we¹re stupid cause we are speaking out against something that we, as a community, don¹t want in our community,² she said. ³We need to wake up. That was very offensive to me. I took that as shot.
That was very offensive.²

Fry said the commission will be spending the next several weeks sifting through the testimony and materials presented to them. It is too soon to tell which way the seven-member commission was leaning, he said. The law stipulates that the earliest the casino can open is July 2016.

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Gaming Companies Meet the Public in Prince Georges


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