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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Maryland governor backs plan for casino

30 July 2012

Maryland's governor said Friday that expanded gaming in the state - including a Las Vegas-style hotel-casino development roughly 10 miles from the nation's capital operated by MGM Resorts International - could be worth more than $100 million annually in tax revenue for the state's school system.

In calling for a special session of the General Assembly to start Aug. 9, Gov. Martin O'Malley asked lawmakers to consider allowing an $700 million hotel-casino with full-scale gaming in Prince George's County and to let slot machine-only casinos add table games.

MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren said his company would invest $500 million in a project at National Harbor, a complex on the Potomac River in southern Maryland that is a waterfront destination for the Washington area.

MGM Resorts would oversee the project with the Peterson Cos., which developed the 350-acre National Harbor and would cover $200 million.

O'Malley said the casino would create thousands of construction jobs and some 2,000 permanent jobs.

"As much as some outsiders would like to change the subject, this discussion is about jobs and revenue for Maryland," said Murren, who was in Annapolis pitching gaming expansion.

A sticking point could be Maryland's gaming tax of 67 percent on slot machine revenues, the highest in the nation. But Murren told the Baltimore Sun on Thursday that MGM would develop the resort, regardless of the tax rate.

The governor's plan requires lawmakers and voters in Prince George's County and statewide to approve the plan.

"The compromise we're putting forward will create predictability in the marketplace, protect local and city aid being generated at current sites, ensure authorized facilities are able to be built and allow the people of Prince George's County to decide at the ballot whether they want a sixth site for the benefit of their county and revenue base," the Democrat said in a statement.

Top Democatic lawmakers joined O'Malley at Friday's news conference.

"We applaud today's announcement and respect Maryland's leaders for taking decisive action on this critical issue," Murren said. "By avoiding further delay, state leaders have the opportunity to encourage investment and job creation on a meaningful scale."

MGM Resorts, which operates 10 Strip casinos, is exploring expansion opportunities. The company has been linked with potential gaming expansion in Toronto, New York City and Miami. MGM Resorts also is searching for a casino site in western Massachusetts.

Prince George's County elected leaders support the National Harbor plan, which is opposed by Baltimore's Cordish Cos., owners of the Maryland Live! casino in neighboring Anne Arundel County.

Cordish Cos. CEO David Cordish has said a Prince George's casino would unfairly cut into Maryland Live!'s market in Washington and northern Virginia.

Regional casino giant Penn National Gaming also is expected to oppose the new casino. The company operates a casino in Charles Town, W.Va.