Penn National clears a hurdle needed to bid for Prince George's casino

Penn National Gaming Inc. took another step Thursday toward being able to bid for a casino license in Prince George's County after Maryland gaming officials approved a corporate restructuring for the owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville.

The state Lottery and Gaming Control Commission approved Penn National's plan to spin off Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc., which would allow the Wyomissing, Pa.-based company to circumvent a state law restricting businesses to one video lottery facility.


Last November, Maryland voters approved an expansion of the state's gambling industry, including the addition of table games such as poker and blackjack and a sixth casino location in Prince George's County. The state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will evaluate three bids submitted earlier this year for that license.

Penn National is competing with MGM Resorts and Greenwood Racing for the Prince George's license. A casino there is projected to bring thousands of jobs.


The location commission will conduct site visits and public hearings on the three bids Oct. 21, 23 and 25. Each day, the commission will tour one of the proposed sites, followed by a company presentation to the commission at 3:30 and a public hearing at 6 p.m. at Friendly High School, 1000 Allentown Road, Fort Washington.

Penn National has proposed building a casino at its Rosecroft Raceway harness track. MGM's bid involves a prominent site adjacent to Interstate 95 at the National Harbor resort and conference center. Greenwood wants to build on a site a few miles south off Indian Head Highway.

The Lottery and Gaming Control Commission on Thursday also approved a corporate restructuring plan for Caesars Entertainment Corp., which is building the $400 million Horseshoe Casino near the two pro sports stadiums in southwest Baltimore. The gaming giant intends to create Caesars Growth Partners and Caesars Acquisition Co.

The restructuring was characterized as a temporary financing vehicle for the company that would provide Caesars with more liquid assets. The company's fixed costs make it difficult to raise cash without taking on high-cost debt or diluting its shareholders, according to commission documents.

In other business:

•The commission approved the addition of three poker tables at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort near Cumberland. The tables should be open for gaming on Oct. 7.

•The Casino at Ocean Downs shared plans to expand its facility near Ocean City by 50,000 square feet and about 10 additional tables, said general manager Joe Cavilla. The expansion will allow extra space for the facility's 800 slot games. The casino's plans also call for a racing sports-themed restaurant with a view of the racetrack.

•The commission entered into a consent agreement this month with Maryland Live! Casino after the facility was charged this summer with allegedly allowing underage individuals to enter the gaming floor on four occasions. The casino, which undertook corrective measures to stop it from happening again, agreed to pay $20,000.


•The commissioners received an update on a change to the Mega Millions game, set for Oct. 19. The multi-state lottery — with an estimated jackpot of $145 million in advance of Friday's drawing — will increase its starting jackpot from $12 million to $15 million, according to John Martin, assistant director for Maryland Lottery. From there, the jackpot will grow in $5 million increments.

That lottery's second-tier prize will jump from $250,000 to $1 million. Five numbers will be drawn from an expanded pool of 75, and one Mega ball will be drawn from a smaller pool of 15 to determine winners, which decreases the odds of winning.