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City lawmakers grill Caesars execs

Baltimore lawmakers had tough questions for Caesars executives during a Friday morning delegation meeting in Annapolis, with elected officials grilling the gambling giant on its commitment to the city.

At issue is Caesars' support for legislation that would allow a sixth casino in Maryland -- a mega gambling palace potentially at National Harbor in Prince George's County that many believe would suck business from Baltimore. The company's position has led some lawmakers to believe Caesars is eying bidding there and abandoning their city proposal.

"If that was to pass, National Harbor would be the destination location," said Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, a city lawmaker. "National Harbor would be the Los Angeles Lakers and we would be the Wizards."

Tarrant pressed the officials: "You are not interested in National Harbor?"

Del. Sandy Rosenberg, another Baltimore lawmaker, had a similar line of questioning, asking why it made sense for Caesars to support another location so close.

Fred Keeton and Trevor Busche, both vice president with Caesers, said the company supports the legislation because it would provide market stability. Should the company be awarded a license to operate a casino, they still plan to raise over $100 million in funds from Wall Street.

Also, the two stressed that they would not support a sixth location without the accompanying sweeteners that the current bill includes. Legislation before the House and Senate would lower the state tax rate on slots earnings from 67 percent to 60 percent and allow tax free table games.

The House Ways & Means committee is slated to have hearing on the bill Friday afternoon.

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