Community Groups Maneuver to Halt Proposed National Harbor Casino

Stakes Run High in Last-Minute Push for Input

Joshua Garner | 10/14/2013, noon
With only days before a Maryland commission will begin the process of selecting the location of a proposed casino in ...

With only days before a Maryland commission will begin the process of selecting the location of a proposed casino in Prince George’s County, a consortium of community groups are scrambling to halt plans for a casino at National Harbor.

The group, which includes community members and officials from the Town of Forest Heights, contends that the proposed $800 million National Harbor casino would do little to spur economic development in the surrounding community and would overwhelm roadways in southern Prince George’s County.

"We do not want a casino," said Forest Heights Mayor Jackie Goodall, whose municipality abuts National Harbor. "I don’t understand the concept of putting a casino in a community that’s not distressed."

The Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will begin considering proposals for the location of a county casino on Oct. 21 and is expected to award a license to a developer before the close of the year.

Last week, the town council passed an ordinance against the National Harbor location and organized a protest along Oxon Hill Road, where the casino would sit. The group also said they want more communication with county officials and developer; they prefer placing casino at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, which Goodall said is better suited for gaming.

"Nobody has come to Forest Heights to say this is what we’re going to do for the community," Goodall said. "We’re the ones who are going to be able to throw a rock out the door and hit the place."

Three bidders are vying for a casino license in Oxon Hill and Fort Washington. MGM Resorts International is proposing the National Harbor location; Penn National Gaming, owner of Rosecroft Raceway, is proposing the $700 million Hollywood Casino Resort. Bensalem, Pa.-based Greenwood Racing Inc, has proposed the $800 million Parx Casino Hotel & Spa in Fort Washington, at the intersection of Route 210 and Old Fort Road.

Of the three bids, the National Harbor location has received the most support from Prince George’s County officials. Still, residents said they believe they are gaining momentum to shift the focus away from National Harbor.

"David can succeed against Goliath — just because we’re small doesn’t mean we can’t win," said Joyce Evans, a Fort Washington resident who is lobbying the community to get involved in the proposal process for the casino. "We have reached a critical [point], no one is protecting the residents of Oxon Hill and Fort Washington."

Joyce Thorpe, 58, of Fort Washington, is member of the Campaign to Reinvest in the Heart of Oxon Hill. She said the group has been battling county politicians and developers at National Harbor for years to shift development to the business corridors in Oxon Hill and away from the residential areas.

Thorpe said the group would rather see the casino placed at Rosecroft Raceway, a gambling destination for years, which would help revitalize communities closer to the inner Beltway.

"We feel like this part of Oxon Hill and Fort Washington has become a sacrifice zone," she said.