Penn National Playing to Win PGC

Shevry Lassiter | 2/2/2012, 5:22 p.m.

Penn National Gaming wants to stimulate the economy for Prince George's County. With the purchase of a bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway February 2011, Penn National re-opened Rosecroft for standardbred simulcasting in August 2011 and made a commitment to do two seasons of live racing starting October 2011.

The company, which presently operates 26 gaming and/or racing facilities in a number of states in the U.S. and parts of Canada, is hoping to invest $300 million dollars at Rosecroft for slots, tables, simulcast and live racing to increase revenue opportunities. Knowingly entering into ownership where there is no certainty that gaming for Prince George's County will meet approval by residents is a chance Penn National is willing to take.

They have re-employed several displaced workers and projected 2,980 new jobs if gaming is offered along with over 4,600 construction jobs. Claiming to economically impact the State of Maryland with $2.5 billion dollars and $376 million dollars in new tax revenue annually including $39.6 million dollars in new tax revenue to Prince George's County annually, Penn National questions why residents wouldn't want the operations in their back yard.

According to the Bowie State Economic Impact Study of Gaming at Rosecroft, 67 percent of slots revenue collected by Maryland would fund programs with 48 percent going to education; 5.5 percent to the local government; 7 percent to horseracing; 2.5 percent for the first eight years to the Racetrack Renewal Fund; 2 percent to the State lottery, and; 1.5 percent to the Small, Minority and Women Owned Business Account.

Prince George's County resident Radamase Cabrera raised concerns with crime, drugs, and prostitution being presented to the community if gaming is approved.

"The Black community has to be intellectually dysfunctional if they believe these social ills will not come to Rosecroft with slots and casinos," he said in an email.

On the other hand 68-year-old Marshall Fields says, "We already have crime going on in the county, the casino won't make a difference. I drive all the way to Atlantic City, Charlestown, Delaware and fly to Vegas and one thing I know I don't have to worry about crime around me in the casino. The casinos want my money and if I don't feel safe I'm not stepping in there."

In order to keep Rosecroft open, Penn National must have other forms of gaming. According to the gaming industry, horse racing is a dying business and cannot be sustained as a standalone venture. Penn National is taking the risk "because we believe there are things for the community to know about gaming. There are obviously a lot of misconceptions which is where some of the opposition gets its strength from, but there are a lot of positives that come with it," said Karen Bailey, Penn National's director of public affairs.

"Gambling is a thing of convenience ... and the other positive, and we think the most important parts are the revenue and the jobs," she added.

Penn National is currently in arbitration to have thoroughbred simulcasting brought to Rosecroft.

The company has made promises in other communities throughout the country where casinos are run to participate and establish programs for disadvantaged business enterprises and has a plan to implement a similar program in Prince George's County.

Currently, Prince George's County does not have a development agreement in place with Penn National to ensure residents are given a stake in operations as employees or contract recipients for construction projects and vendor services. Bailey stated Penn National would put in place a commitment or agreement to include county residents.

The gaming industry has a myriad of job opportunities, from entry-level jobs to executive positions. These positions cannot be outsourced and once the casino is in operation the jobs will be available to county residents.