Prince George's residents unable to chip in on casino site -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected 2:30 p.m., July 12. An explanation appears at the end of the story.

Hundreds packed the Oxon Hill Library on Wednesday expecting to debate placement of the proposed Prince George's gaming facility, but instead were treated to a brief presentation without an opportunity to speak.

County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington told the standing-room-only crowd — some people watched the presentation from the outside through the library's windows and Patterson estimated that about 300 were inside for the session — that the meeting was to provide an update on the site selection process and public hearings would not begin until late September or October.

“I thought we would have a chance to put in our input and I was surprised,” said Marvin H. Simpson, vice president of the Caltor Manor Civic Association, a 400-household Fort Washington subdivision that is within a quarter of a mile and five miles away from each of the three sites. “I was upset when I first went in there because of all the rumors that we heard, but after I got there I got a much better understanding. I just can't wait until we can get to a forum where we can get to ask questions.”

Prince George's County voters approved a referendum to have one gaming facility with up to 3,000 video lottery terminals and table games. Three companies submitted property bids for the facility in May.

The three sites are the Penn National Gaming owned-Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington; MGM Resorts International owned-National Harbor; and Greenwood Racing's 22-acre space in Fort Washington, all of which are within four miles of Bock Road and St. Barnabas Road as mandated by the law.

MGM submitted a $21.6 million bid for an $800 million 3,600 video lottery terminals and 140 gaming table facility.

Forest Heights Mayor Jacqueline Goodall said National Harbor being selected would create too much congestion for residents near National Harbor.

“People aren't going to be able to leave their homes,” Goodall said.

Kenneth O. Hardie, who said he has lived in Fort Washington for 38 years, favors the National Harbor option as there would be too much congestion if Fort Washington was selected.

“I think it will enhance the image of Prince George's County,” Hardie said. “It's probably the more attractive site.”

Joyce Thorpe, who lives near National Harbor, preferred Rosecroft as she said traffic tie-ups would make her commute difficult.

“I can't swim in the Potomac River to get away from National Harbor [traffic],” Thorpe said.

Rosecroft Raceway's owner, Penn National, made a $3 million bid — lower than the others due to the proposals fewer amount of terminals and gaming tables — for a $700 million 500 video lottery terminals and 40 gaming table facility.

Greenwood submitted a $28.5 million bid for its $800 million facility at Indian Head Highway and Old Fort Road in Fort Washington for 4,750 video lottery terminals and 170 table games.

Bids were due in May and now the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency's licensing division is performing background checks looking at their personal, financial and criminal backgrounds, said Donald Fry, the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission chair.

The commission will visit the three sites on days when public hearings are scheduled, Fry said.

“The commission will get the opportunity to question the operator publicly,” Fry said.

An announcement on the site selection would be made in a public meeting by early 2014 and the soonest that a Prince George's County casino can open is July 1, 2016, Fry said.

Correction: The story originally had the incorrect amount of proposed video lottery terminals in the Greenwood proposal.