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Baker's Billion Dollar Casino Idea Draws Early Opposition

Special to Informer | , Steve Monroe | 3/22/2012, 2:50 p.m.

Penn National's opposition to Baker's plan

Steven Snyder, Penn National senior vice president of corporate development, in testimony before a legislative committee last month in Annapolis, said of the National Harbor plan, "Their proposed $1billion project is conditioned [on] a 'competitive tax structure' that can support their investment. So the developers who have already been the beneficiaries of nearly a half billion dollars of taxpayer support for National Harbor and who have allegedly been opposed to the concept of gaming there, now are seeking a tax break to support this 11th hour proposal for a billion dollar resort.

"Alternatively, Penn's $300 million privately financed development at current tax rates at Rosecroft [that] would create a brand new, state of the art integrated gaming and racing facility is not conditioned on the tax rollback outlined in the study commissioned by the County Executive."

Snyder added that Penn National thinks Rosecroft would be the best location for the state's sixth gaming license "for a number of different reasons including ... It would help to revitalize one of Prince George's oldest communities, helping lift what has been a failing business to one that creates prosperity and opportunity in the community around us."

A spokesperson for Baker said, on Penn National's comments, "We acknowledge that there might have to be a different tax structure [than what the state has mandated for existing gaming facilities] for this project, in order to do the kind of high end gaming resort facility that the County Executive wants to have for the county. But that would be up to the state to decide, our position is based on what we would support in the county and that is a high end destination facility that can attract out of state visitors."

Concerns over "favoritism" raised by Gaskins

Joseph Gaskins, chairman of the Prince George's County Contractors Association, questions Baker's plan from another perspective, regarding safeguards for a competitive bidding process for the award of a gaming contract.

Gaskins said in a statement, "We are concerned about the most recent announcement by the County Executive and his continuing marketing efforts on behalf of the Peterson Companies for a casino at National Harbor ... The action of the County Executive gives the appearance of the possibility of collusion, favoritism and unfair bid practices by seemingly steering or sole sourcing' slots to one location within the county.

"Because of the past history of our prior County Executive ... we feel that the County can ill afford to have its image further damaged by another County Executive. We are concerned that the County Executive actions to date, suggests that he is attempting to bypass or circumvent the bid process and influence a decision that appears to favor one bidder and creates an unlevel playing field for other bidders at Rosecroft, Largo Town Center or other locations."

In response to Gaskins' statement, a spokesperson for the county executive said in an email, "Any characterizations that there is an attempt to bypass the bid process or that there was anything improper with Mr. Baker's proposal concerning gaming in Prince Georges County is completely false. What Mr. Baker has done, in fact, is deliver a clear and concise recommendation as well as conditions in the form of a high end destination casino resort in order for him to support gaming in Prince George's County. The County Executive has indicated his preference for the National Harbor site based on the harbor already being a travel destination, the infrastructure and the minimum impact it would have on surrounding communities.