- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — The owner of the state’s largest casino says building a new gambling hall in Prince George’s County would stack the deck against his facility.

David Cordish, president and chairman of the Cordish Company, told state officials on Friday that a Prince George’s casino will take significant business from Maryland Live! — his company’s 330,000-square-foot slots casino in Anne Arundel County which is set to open Wednesday.

Mr. Cordish, while testifying before the state’s newly-formed Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion, said his company was all but promised first access to the lucrative D.C.-area market when it bid on the casino license in 2009 but now stands to lose out if lawmakers and voters approve a sixth facility in the state.

He said a Prince George’s casino — which would likely be built at National Harbor — could narrow or eliminate his company’s already-thin profit margins, even if the state tries to cushion the blow by legalizing table games or giving operators a larger portion of the profits.

“We haven’t opened yet,” Mr. Cordish said. “If the state of Maryland changes the rules … you’re sending a signal to the businesses that Maryland is not a reliable partner.”

Maryland Live! is set to become the state’s third casino to open, joining facilities in Cecil and Worcester counties.

Construction has yet to begin on planned sites in Allegany County and Baltimore.

The state’s work group, which held its first meeting Friday, is expected to weigh the pros and cons of adding table games and a sixth site in Prince George’s.

Later this month, it could recommend a bill that would set up a November referendum of the issue. The legislation would have to be passed during an expected but as yet unscheduled July special session.

Representatives from several of the state’s other casino sites said they would be able to coexist with a Prince George’s facility, as long as they each get a larger share of revenues than they now receive to make up for any lost business.

Operators at all but the Allegany site receive 33 percent of slots revenues with the rest going to the state for distribution to education, local aid and other programs.

A failed gambling expansion bill during this year’s regular session would have increased that share to 40 percent, or 48 percent if operators used the extra money to buy their own slots machines rather than having the state purchase them.

The bill would have given 90 percent of table games revenues to operators and 10 percent to host counties.

“These businesses would do just fine, and I’m prepared to vote with my checkbook along those lines,” said Gary Loveman, CEO of Caesars Entertainment, the leading bidder for the Baltimore license.

Nonetheless, Cordish officials insisted that their site has the most to lose because it is closest to National Harbor and has already spent more than $500 million to get its facility up and running.

They pointed out that Maryland’s 67 percent tax rate on slots is one of the highest in the country and that after paying for operating expenses, they expect to walk away with only 1 or 2 percent of overall profits.

“These facilities are not Starbucks that can be put on every street corner in the state and be sustainable,” said Joe Weinberg, president of Cordish’s gaming and lodging division.

The work group is scheduled to meet again June 12 and 20. Members say their recommendations could include adding table games, a casino or perhaps one or neither of the two, but that they have yet to decide and are keeping an open mind to all testimony.

“Our focus here is protect the state and make sure they get the best deal,” said Delegate Frank S. Turner, Howard Democrat. “Anything that we would say at this point would be totally premature.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide