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Baker Backs National Harbor Casino Idea

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s administration outlined support Thursday to build a luxurious Las-Vegas-style casino on the Potomac River at National Harbor near the nation’s capital that would cost about $1 billion.

A consultant hired by the Baker administration concluded that National Harbor was an overwhelmingly preferred location in the county.

There are many uncertainties surrounding the plan. For one thing, it’s unclear whether enough county officials will back the plan in a county that has been resistant to casinos in the past.

Also, it’s far from clear whether there will be enough support in the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation to allow a casino in the county. Voters also would have to approve legislation in a statewide referendum.

“Make no illusions, this isn’t a task that will be easily accomplished, but again, this is the way that it makes sense for Prince George’s County and this is the way that we would support it, and if the appetite is not there for the way that we feel as though it has to be done then so be it,” said Brad Frome, Baker’s deputy chief of staff.

Baker’s administration estimates the county could make about $30 million from the local share of taxes on gambling proceeds. The administration also estimates the county could make another $20 million from property, income, hotel, admissions and amusement taxes.

The casino would be large, with up to 4,750 slot machines.

“We’re talking about a place that appeals to, literally, to travelers nationwide,” Frome said.

National Harbor is a 300-acre area on the Potomac River that includes hotels, restaurants, retail stores, condominiums and a convention center. It was built by The Peterson Cos. and Gaylord Entertainment, which owns the largest hotel in the development. In a joint statement by The Peterson Companies and Gaylord Entertainment, the companies said they would only support a high-end proposal.

“To attain world-class quality, the resort will require a competitive tax structure that can support a minimum capital investment of one billion dollars,” the companies said in a statement.

Legislation introduced in Annapolis this month would allow table games like blackjack and make it possible to build a casino in Prince George’s County. Currently, Maryland only allows five casinos. Only two have opened so far, in Perryville off of Interstate 95 and near Ocean City on the Eastern Shore. A third casino in Anne Arundel County is scheduled to open with about 4,750 slot machines this summer.

Bidders are seeking licenses to open casinos in Baltimore City and Rocky Gap State Park in western
Maryland.

Maryland faces stiff competition from neighboring states like Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia that allow table games such as blackjack, craps and roulette as well as slot machines.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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