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Caesars reps support Md. gaming expansion bill

Saturday - 3/17/2012, 7:30am  ET

Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Officials representing the sole applicant hoping to put a slots parlor in downtown Baltimore said Friday they support a bill that would create a sixth casino in Maryland.

Trevor Busche, vice president for corporate development for Caesars Entertainment Corp., said that his company doesn't really like the idea of sixth casino, which would be located in Prince George's County, because it would draw from their potential customer base. But he believes other elements of the bill would create a more stable marketplace for gambling.

It also would allow casinos to add table games like blackjack and roulette, increase the share of money casino owners get to keep from 33 to 40 percent and allow a casino license holder to possess more than one license.

Proponents of the legislation say a sixth casino site could mean an increase in state and local revenues.

"Certainly we want to try and make sure that the five sites the state currently has are held as harmless as possible, which I think offering to all sites the ability to have table games is an important aspect," Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker told members of the House Ways and Means Committee Friday afternoon.

Baker, a Democrat, has argued that the state should approve a casino site at National Harbor, a mixed-use development that includes hotels and a conference center, along the Potomac River.

Along with National Harbor developers, Baker argues that an at least $1 billion development that can also hold restaurants and live entertainment, would be critical to bringing tourism dollars to the area.

Theo Rodgers, president of A&R Companies, a Baltimore-based developer working with Caesars, said while they support elements of the bill, his group would oppose any stand-alone legislation to create a sixth license in Maryland.

"We are responding to what has been served up, what has been introduced," Rodgers said. "And again, and I don't think this should be lost, we have not be designated as the licensee."

Donald Fry, a former state delegate and chairman of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, said he expects the commission to decide whether to award the license to Caesars by June.

In 2008, Maryland voters approved licenses for slot machines at five locations. Two slots parlors, one in Perryville and another outside Ocean City, have already opened and a third location is expected to be online in Anne Arundel County in June.

Securing operators at the Baltimore site and at western Maryland's Rocky Gap State Park has taken longer. There is only one proposal, from Evitts Resort LLC, before the commission for the Rocky Gap site.

Busche and Rodgers presented their plan to build a 3,700 slot-machine venue on Russell Street to members of the Baltimore City delegation Friday morning.

Lawmakers questioned whether Caesars would want to pursue the Prince George's location, if it were approved, instead of following through in Baltimore.

"I'm not sure where that concern is emanating," Busche said. "We haven't done anything to suggest deviating from our desire to operate and invest in a casino in Baltimore City and that's where all of our efforts are focused."

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