Penn National not giving up, looks to courts

Penn National Gaming, dealt a blow by Maryland voters' approval of a Prince George's County casino Tuesday, signaled that it would not give up its fight and would turn to the courts.

Kevin McLaughlin, spokesman for the ballot committee set up by Penn National to fight the gambling expansion question, said the company was disappointed in the results. Voters approved the plan, which includes table games and the new casino, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent after a campaign whose final costs were likely to come in at more than $90 million.


McLaughlin said Penn National has "serious reservations" about whether the referendum process set up by the General Assembly was legal under Maryland's Constitution.

"We continue to believe that the Constitution requires a majority of qualified voters approve any expansion of gaming. (Tuesday's) vote fell far short of a majority of qualified voters. A lawsuit has been filed to this end, on behalf of the citizens of Maryland, and we intend to explore all of our legal avenues as well," McLaughlin said.


The lawsuit was filed last week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by former Prince George's County Councilman Tom Dernoga and former Del. Gerron Levi. It contends that the Constitution required a supermajority to pass an expansion of gambling -- an interpretation rejected by the Attorney General's Office.

McLaughlin said Penn National, which poured more than $40 million into its attempt to defeat the plan, still believes taxpayers deserve a better deal.

"A better deal was possible if the Governor and Legislature had taken the time to listen to other voices and fashion a gaming solution that fully served taxpayers, schools, and the citizens of the state," he said.

Penn National operates a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that could see a significant loss of business if a casino opens in Prince George's County -- within the lucrative Washington market.

The campaign for approval of the plan was largely financed by MGM Resorts International, which hopes to operate such a casino at National Harbor.

Penn National also operates Rosecroft Raceway, another Prince George's site that is eligible for consideration for a casino under the plan approved by the legislature. But Penn National has complained that the process is stacked in favor of National Harbor.