National Harbor casino proposal draws fire

Prince George's County Executive supports the creation of a Las Vegas-style casino -- complete with table games -- at National Harbor on the Potomac.

A proposal by the Prince George's County executive to single out National Harbor as the only acceptable site for a casino in that county ran into fierce opposition on multiple fronts Wednesday in Annapolis.

At a hearing before a state Senate committee, the owner of Rosecraft Raceway predicted that slots at National Harbor would lead to the demise of the harness racing track.

Also objecting was the developer of the soon-to-open slots casino at Arundel Mills, who opposed the opening of any new gambling sites before the five locations already authorized have proven their viability.

But the proposal was embraced by the owner of the National Harbor development.

Last week, Prince George's County ExecutiveRushern L. BakerIII announced his support for an envisioned $1 billion, Las Vegas-style casino — complete with table games, and high-end entertainment and dining — at National Harbor, a luxury development on the Potomac River waterfront.

The chairman of the company that owns National Harbor, Milton V. Peterson, told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that he embraces Baker's position "thoroughly." Peterson said his company had no interest in building a mere "slots barn or slots parlor" at National Harbor. He promised only the best at the complex, which has 2,000 hotel rooms and a convention center.

"It would not be shoddy, it would not be cute. It would not be glitzy," said Peterson. "It would exude class."

But a top official of Penn National Gaming, which owns the ailing Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's, countered that when the current slots law was approved by voters in 2008, one of the main reasons given was to revive horse racing in Maryland.

"A location at Rosecroft Raceway is the last viable option for racing in this state," said Steven T. Snyder, a senior vice president at Penn National. If Baker's recommendation were adopted by the General Assembly, he said, racing at Rosecroft could end.

Meanwhile, the top executive ofthe Cordish Cos., the developer of the giant slots complex expected to open at Arundel Mills in June, filed written testimony objecting to any expansion of gambling to a sixth site. David Cordish told senators that he opposes not only Baker's plan but also the legalization of table games as compensation to the existing operators of slots-only sites.

Maryland currently allows slot machine gambling at five locations. Any measure to expand gambling beyond slots or to add more sites would require a constitutional amendment and would have to go before state voters.