On a day when campaigning over gambling expansion was otherwise muted by storm cleanup, proponents of a new casino in Prince George's County flaunted the endorsements of police and fire unions and the state NAACP and pointed to their support in a television ad.
FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools, the ballot committee largely financed by MGM Resorts International, released letters from the Fraternal Order of Police, Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland and the NAACP Maryland State Conference backing Question 7. If the measure passes it would clear the way for the Prince George's casino MGM hopes to operate and for table games at Maryland's already licensed slots locations.
Along with the letters, the MGM-backed committee released a new ad touting the endorsements and repeating the by now familiar arguments that expanded gambling will bring jobs and investment to Maryland while keeping tax revenue at home.
In their letter, NAACP state President Gerald Stansbury and political action chair Marvin L. 'Doc' Cheatham Sr. say "Question 7 provides an important opportunity for more jobs for all people of color and all working families throughout Maryland and new sources of funds for our schools."
The supporters' ad follows one released by the opposition ballot committee, which is bankrolled by Penn National Gaming, in which Comptroller Peter Franchot asserts that Question 7 will not bring additional dollars for education. Penn National owns the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, which could lose revenue if MGM is permitted to open a casino at National Harbor.
Several Maryland elected officials, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, have appeared in ads underwritten by the pro-casino committee -- an action for which they were criticized by the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland.
James Browning, mid-Atlantic director for Common Cause, said it is no more appropriate for an elected official to appear in an ad financed by Penn National than it was to make an ad for the other side. He said that such free publicity amounts to a contribution to an official who is widely believed to be a candidate for governor.
"To get that kind of statewide exposure would be hugely expensive for a candidate to do on their own," Browning said.