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The Baltimore Sun

County Exec. Baker begins push for National Harbor casino in Prince George's

ANNAPOLIS - Prince George's CountyExecutive Rushern Baker III told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Wednesday that a full-fledged casino at National Harbor is in the best interest of the county's economic development and would bring in tens of millions a year in tax revenue.

Last week, Baker released a study he commissioned that said National Harbor, and not Ft. Washington's Rosecroft Raceway, is the ideal location for a casino in the county.

Baker testified Wednesday in support of SB 892, introduced byPrince George's CountyDemocrat Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, which would allow a casino with both slot machines and table games inPrince George's County.

"Here's another chance for us to build a high-end casino, high-end entertainment attraction, bring people in from outside ofPrince George's County, grow our tax base and provide revenue for the citizens of the county," said Baker after his testimony.

Baker testified that he is not in favor of two gambling sites that would draw from each other. But he recognized something needs to be done to support Rosecroft.

Sen. Anthony Muse, strongly opposed the National Harbor site.

"Why not focus on Rosecroft which is struggling and dying, not National Harbor which is in the opposite situation," Muse, a Democrat fromPrince George's County, said.

Muse went further, suggesting some in the county feel that not allowing them a voice before last week's announcement was made, gives the appearance of backroom dealing, which has plagued the county in the past.

The Baker-commissioned study found a resort destination casino at National Harbor could employ about 5,000 people at an average total compensation of $34,000 each, bringing the total wages to an estimated $170 million a year.

However, there would also be an economic impact on other area casinos.

An analysis of the bill by the Department of Legislative Services estimated a casino in Prince George's Countywould reduce by about 10 percent the revenues generated from the Anne Arundel County and Baltimore facilities.

In 2008, Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing 15,000 video lottery terminals at five state locations, but none inPrince George's County. The General Assembly this year is considering several bills that would add a location in Prince George's and add table games to all locations.

So far, Hollywood Casino in Cecil County and the Casino at Ocean Downs in Worcester County are the only two to open, generating $9.8 million and $3.1 million, respectively in January.

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