Casino gambling may once again be on the table as officials in the county have softened on their stance given the state of the economy.

Last year, when the outlook for Rosecroft Raceway looked grim, Sen. C. Anthony Muse introduced a bill that would bring casino gambling to the track. That bill wasn’t passed due to tepid local support from residents and legislators who weren’t quite certain that it was the right move to make.

“If the vote results in a 52 percent to 48 percent vote in favor statewide, but actually results in 75 percent of the people of Prince George’s County voting against it, this would become law,” said Md. Sen. Paul Pinsky, D.-Dist. 22, at a 2010 hearing. “I think when people in Harford County, Baltimore County or Wicomico County look at this bill and say ‘Well, if Prince George’s wants it, I guess they can have it.’ This is not a local bill.”

Penn National Gaming has purchased the struggling racetrack with the hopes of placing a casino there. Rosecroft is scheduled to open on Aug. 25 and even Prince George’s county executive is willing to consider supporting gaming at the site – if it makes sense.

“ willing to revisit this issue and really look at everything that’s on the table,” said Scott Peterson, acting director of communications for Baker. “He wants to weigh the costs and the benefits.”

When Baker was a member of the state legislator, he opposed casino gambling in the county, but now is willing to listen. Peterson says that Baker wants to hear from other legislators and members of the community before making a final decision.

One community group has already voiced its opinion on the matter. According to the Washington Post, the Collective Empowerment Group, a conglomerate of heads of over 150 local churches, opposes bringing casino gaming to the county and has promised to fight it.

It could be a major boon in economic development for the county and state though and that’s what has brought the idea back from the dead. In a county still reeling from the foreclosure crisis, this could be just what the doctor ordered. However, Peterson says there are too many variables before this can be taken seriously.

“What is the benefit in terms of economic development? Will it create jobs,” Peterson asked. “Also, what is the investment? You also will have public safety issues that could exist. This is the very beginning of a long process”

Despite this, Penn National officials say they are proud to have the track re-opened. They said it will greatly help the economic stability of the county.

“We are truly excited to bring this entertainment option back to the racing fans of the Washington D.C. metro area,” said Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming, in a statement. “The re-opening of Rosecroft is just the start in bringing jobs and economic activity back to Prince George’s County.”

Simulcasting will be the only option for the first two months of the tracks’ opening. Harness racing will return on Oct. 21.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO