Serious Concerns Linger in Prince George's County Over Gaming Bill

Special to Informer | 4/4/2012, 11:47 a.m.

Whatever the results of the Maryland House of Delegates debate, and possible vote in these last days of the 2012 General Assembly session, on the bill to allow a sixth state gaming site to be in Prince George's County, emotions will remain high and concerns will be debated for months, if not years.

That was made clear by the sentiments from the overflow crowd at Prince George's County Council member Obie Patterson's town hall meeting Saturday at the Oxon Hill Library. The meeting featured an appearance by County Executive Rushern Baker who stopped by to push his bid for the bill to include amendments that specify a $1 billion gaming resort at National Harbor.

"One of the major areas of concern that hasn't been resolved is transportation," said Patterson (Dist. 8) Saturday regarding a facility at either National Harbor or Rosecroft Raceway. "It's already pretty hectic on [Rt.] 210 and [Rt. 414] out here and we don't think there has been sufficient detail about what the plans are for resolving those issues."

Other issues raised at the meeting included the question of provisions for more on-site police and whether attention is being given to added medical facilities to handle the large number of local gaming patrons and tourists.

Another issue involves how much revenue from gaming would actually be provided for needs like education, transportation and public safety in the Oxon Hill, Fort Washington areas specifically, and not just statewide.

And while minority business participation in the development of gaming and resort facilities is a base issue, a long-standing one is the idea of using gaming to help fund government activities in the first place. Furthermore, some say it is "repugnant" that gaming revenue would be coming from low income residents who can least afford to gamble.

Last week, the state Senate passed the gaming bill, proposed by Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie, to allow slots and table games in Prince George's County. Penn National Gaming is pushing for that site to be at Rosecroft Raceway, while Baker favors National Harbor. According to published reports, a casino also has been proposed for the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo.

Patterson asked Baker at the meeting what provisions are being made that his district would benefit from the millions generated by a gaming facility, and Baker said plans are being made now to make sure funds are allocated properly. Patterson released a statement Monday saying:

"We are still working to make sure that Senate Bill 892 incorporates the concerns of local residents in District 8. I have advocated for more monies to come back to Prince George's County that will allow for local impact aide for road and infrastructure improvements, school funding and also that this bill incorporate provisions for minimum local minority contracting and hiring guidelines."

Binding vote by county a good thing - Peters

If the bill passes in the general assembly, voters statewide will cast their ballots in a referendum this fall with a majority of voters in Prince George's County need to vote "yes" for any site to become a reality.