The fight to claim the sixth gaming license in Maryland is now on after both the state’s House of Delegates and Senate voted to approve a new gaming expansion legislation in the state’s Prince George’s County. State governor Martin O’Malley was quick to sign the measure, which is now on track to be voted on in a coming statewide referendum this coming November.
While this news should ring music to the ears of gaming companies who have interest in setting up shop in Maryland, one international gaming company is already looking ahead to building a casino in the area, which, in turn, has already drawn the ire of some local gaming operators.
According to Reuters, MGM Resorts International already has an agreement in place with developer Peterson Cos for a casino to be built in National Harbor, a stone’s throw away from the Washington D.C. riverfront. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Well, don’t tell that to Penn National Gaming, the Pennsylvania-based gaming outfit, who laid waste to what it calls as “back room” wheeling and dealing between MGM and National Harbor. “It’s pretty clear to us that the fix is in, in Maryland which is shocking,” said Penn National CEO Peter Carlino on a recent call with analysts as quoted by Reuters.
Despite what it deems as politics in full bloom, Penn National is determined to bring the fight to its much larger international gambling company. “You can appreciate that this will be a very dramatic fight and we’re ready for that,” Carlino added. Penn National’s got a lot riding on this, especially since the company has been one of the most ardent voices in lobbying officials to approve the new gaming expansion legislation. The company reportedly spent $877,433 in this fight, compared to MGM, which reportedly didn’t even spend more than $50,000 fighting for the same cause.
Penn National already operates a number of gambling establishments in the area, including the Hollywood Casino and Rosecroft Raceway harness horse race track. With what could potential be Maryland’s largest gambling expansion since 2008, the company won’t just let MGM flex its corporate muscle to get what it wants.
In addition to Penn National, MGM also faces opposition from the Cordish Cos, which recently opened the largest casino in the state – and one of the largest in the country: Maryland Live!. While not as straightforward with his criticism of MGM’s “back-channeling”, Cordish Cos managing partner, Joe Weinberg, explained the process should take its natural course in fairness to those interested in making bids. “A basic premise of any potential changes to gaming laws in Maryland, especially the addition of a potential new sixth mega-casino, should be fairness to the existing licensees such as us that have made massive investments based on the state’s current rules,” Weinberg said.