Prince George’s residents urged to take part in casino discussions -- Gazette.Net


While a Prince George’s County casino is inevitable, some residents say it isn’t too late to have an impact on what the new gaming facility will bring to the community.

“We fought gaming. We think it is bad public policy with more downside than upside,” said William Cavitt of Fort Washington, chairman of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council community group. “A casino is going to be built somewhere, so the issue is determining the least negative impact.”

Cavitt and other community activists are urging residents to attend a series of meetings later this month regarding the selection of a company and a site to build the casino. The casino will be Maryland’s sixth and the first in the county.

The three companies vying for the casino license will have meetings with the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, the group responsible for regulating Maryland’s slot machines and overseeing the bids. Each meeting will consist of a site visit, presentation to the commission and a hearing where residents can give written or oral testimony.

“The casinos are a source of additional revenue, much needed revenue for the county as well as the state,” said Zeno St. Cyr of Fort Washington. “I like the fact that at the state level much of the funds will be dedicated to education, which is probably the number one concern for Prince Georgians.”

Penn National Gaming, which runs Rosecroft Raceway in Upper Marlboro, will present Oct. 21. Pennsylvania Parx Casino owner, Greenwood Racing, will present Oct. 23. MGM International Resorts will meet with the commission Oct. 25.

The presentation and hearings will be held at Friendly High School, 10000 Allentown Road in Fort Washington, according to the commission’s news release.

Residents have until 4:30 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up at Friendly High School, according to the news release. Sign-ups are also accepted on the commission’s website.

“The purpose of each of the site visits and public hearings is for the commissioners to view the proposed location, observe the surrounding community, get a sense of the size and scope of the proposed facilities, to hear directly from the applicants, and to listen to the public support and public concerns about the proposed project,” said Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry in a news release.

Fry did not respond for additional comments on the meetings.

Cavitt’s group submitted testimony to the commission backing MGM’s proposed National Harbor casino because it would have the least negative impact with light pollution, traffic congestion and the most revenue.

Joe Gaskins of Fort Washington said he is against casinos coming to the county as they have too many negative trade-offs, such as smaller restaurants being unable to compete with the upscale casino restaurants.

“Instead of it being the economic engine you anticipate it to be, it ends up being a killer of small businesses,” said Gaskins, who also is chairman of the Prince George’s County Contractors and Business Association.

While Prince George’s County’s Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) hasn’t made an official backing, he has said he wants to see a resort location at the National Harbor, the location MGM International Resorts has proposed as its site.

None of the companies bidding for the license would comment about the upcoming presentation, with officials saying they wanted to wait until they have given their full presentation to the commission.

The Maryland Gaming and Lottery Commission sets Minority Business Enterprise goals for casino licenses by working with Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, which requires state construction projects to comply with set minority contract standards based on the build’s size and availability of minority contracts.

“If you are going to change our own economic standard in our backyard then we need to hold our developers accountable,” said Lisa Ellis of Clinton.