The race to win Prince George's County casino contest is officially underway.
Maryland's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission released a 110-page request for proposals (RFP) on Feb. 6 for construction and operation of a high-end Las Vegas-style casino.
Proposals are due to the commission by May 10, with a pre-proposal conference for potential bidders scheduled for Feb. 27.
The RFP was distributed to 200 individuals, organizations and businesses. However, a Maryland Lottery official said that list includes construction companies, lobbyists, anyone who expressed "any sort of interest" in the project.
An official with MGM Resorts International, which last year joined forces with National Harbor developer The Peterson Companies to develop a destination resort casino at National Harbor, said they have been doing their homework for months.
"Our interest in Maryland is unabated," said Lorenzo Creighton, president of MGM National Harbor. "We view Prince George's County and National Harbor as one of the strongest untapped destination resort markets in the country. Although the call for proposals was just released, we've been studying the market for months, meeting with constituents and listening to their concerns and wishes for their community. Our experts are busy drawing up designs and programming for a resort that will be unique to this location, its history and community."
MGM Resorts International has resorts and casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois and China.
Penn National Gaming (PNG), operator of 20 horse racing venues and casinos in the United States and Canada including Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, is another possible bidder.
Karen Bailey, PNG's director of public affairs, said her firm is contemplating applying for the license but had no additional details to share.
Prior to last fall's public vote on the addition of a casino in Prince George's County, Bailey said PNG was being squeezed out of consideration for development of the casino and predicted that if the measure passed, Rosecroft would likely be forced to close.
"Rosecroft is not going to have a fair shot," she said at the time.
The RFP specifies that the casino site will be within a four-square-mile area of the county near Bock and St. Barnabus roads. The casino would have no more than 3,000 slots as well as table games.
Those hoping to operate the casino must pay a $3 million license fee per each 500 slots proposed, which goes to the state's Education Trust Fund, and be prepared to provide at least a $25 million investment for construction per each 500 slots. In return, the casino operator gets to keep 38 percent of the casino's slots revenue and 80 percent of the proceeds from table games.
Maryland's three casinos – in Cecil, Worcester and Anne Arundel counties – generated $45 million in revenue in January.
And to apparently ensure that Baltimore City's casino – a $375 million Harrah's expected to open in 2014 – gets off to a good start, the commission has specified that the casino at National Harbor cannot open until July 1, 2016 or 30 months after the Baltimore casino opens.
The license will be good for 15 years and in the final year the operator can re-apply.
The commission expects to choose the operator of the Prince George's County casino in late 2013.