Lawsuit could complicate gaming growth in Maryland

CHARLES TOWN — Hollywood Casino is likely to see increased competition in the next few years following the passage last week of a ballot referendum in Maryland that permits table games and also approved construction of a new casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

However, a challenge to the ballot initiative, which was filed on Nov. 2 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, could put plans to expand gaming in Maryland on hold.

The complaint, filed by former Prince George’s County Councilman Thomas Dernoga on behalf of eight Maryland citizens, argues that a 2007 law that allowed new casinos requires the measure to be approved by majority of “qualified voters,” or citizens eligible to vote on the matter, rather than simply a majority of those who actually voted.

Since voter turnout in Maryland this year was around 70 percent, and some voters chose not to vote on Question 7, this would require a large majority of ‘yes’ votes among those who weighed in on the matter.

An editorial in The Sun blamed Penn National Gaming Inc. for the lawsuit and accused it of attempting to delay the inevitable to protect its profits at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The Sun notes that Penn National spent about $40 million on television ads opposing the measure, an indicator that it is worried about the impact new competition could have on gaming revenue at Charles Town.

Penn National denies involvement in the suit, which is still awaiting an answer from Maryland state officials who are named as defendants.

Gambling supporters in Maryland also spent heavily in support of the measure. A report

funded by National Harbor casino backers and published by the Sage Policy Group said

Maryland gamblers would spend between $1.1 and $1.5 billion in Charles Town over the next decade if Question 7 failed to pass.

 

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