- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Washington Redskins on Tuesday endorsed the ballot question on gambling expansion in Maryland, tossing the team’s helmet into an already crowded ring surrounding the hot-button issue.

Dennis Greene, president of business operations for the Redskins, called the expansion a “tremendous opportunity” for Prince George’s County, where a new casino would be built if the issue wins at polls in November.

“As members of the Prince George’s County business community, we see it as our obligation to speak out in support of major economic development initiatives,” Mr. Greene said. “We urge all of our fans to join the Washington Redskins organization in supporting Question 7 on Election Day.”

The ballot issue asks voters whether they favor the expansion of gambling in Maryland, which includes statewide table games and a new casino in Prince George’s County, which is home to FedEx Field, where the Redskins play their home games.

Kristen Hawn, a spokeswoman for Vote for 7, called the football team “a significant addition” to the list of Question 7 backers.

“The Redskins are part of the fabric of Maryland and for years have invested heavily to improve the educational and employment opportunities across the state.”

Scott Peterson, spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said the office had no knowledge of the endorsement ahead of time.

“The county executive is pleased that the Washington Redskins support the passage of Question 7, following the leadership of other county officials, labor unions and community groups that see this as a great economic opportunity for Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland,” Mr. Peterson said.

Representatives from the campaign against gambling expansion did not return calls for comment.

The gambling question is the most controversial issue appearing on Marylanders’ ballots next month.

Legislative analysts estimate that the bill would generate an extra $52 million for casino operators and the government in its first year. Proponents have added that a new casino and expanding gambling will create thousands of new jobs, attract tourists and bring more revenues for education.

Since it was first introduced during this year’s regular General Assembly session, expanding gambling has been a flash point throughout the state. The ballot question was approved by the General Assembly in an August special session, days before the deadline to put issues on the November ballot. During the regular session of the legislature, failure to agree on gambling led the session to end in chaos.

Cash has flowed to campaign committees on both sides of the issue — more than $32 million so far — and bombarded voters throughout the region with television and radio ads. Most of that money has come from companies with a stake in the outcome of the vote. MGM Resorts, which already has announced its desire to build the new casino as an upscale resort destination in National Harbor, has contributed more than $11 million to the campaign for expanded gambling. A group led by Caesars Resorts, which plans to build a casino in Baltimore city, has given more than $3 million to the campaign supporting expansion, while the company developing National Harbor has contributed more than $1 million.

Penn National Gaming has contributed more than $18 million to the campaign against the issue. Penn National owns Rosecroft Raceway, an Oxon Hill track that would be able to bid for the sixth casino if the ballot question is approved. The company also owns Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va., a large facility an hour and a half from the District that analysts have said could lose significant revenue if a casino were built in Prince George’s County.

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