It's health plan open enrollment season for many employees, including federal workers.The editors of the Consumer Checkbook's annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees join us to discuss what you need to know to make smart choices for 2016.
A measure to expand gambling in Maryland has prompted the most expensive campaign in state history, financed on both sides by competing casino operators. While both sides debate whether allowing blackjack and poker would create jobs and boost education funding, Kojo asks what a high-end casino at National Harbor would mean for Prince George’s County and the region.
- Aaron Davis Washington Post Maryland Politics Reporter
- Jacqueline Goodall Chair of the "Get the Facts--No on 7" campaign; Mayor of Forest Heights, Maryland
- Brad Frome Deputy Chief of Staff for Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker
Map: Maryland Casinos
This map takes a look at Maryland casinos that are already open to the public (green), licensed but not yet built (yellow), and potential location for a new casino if Question 7 on the Maryland ballot passes (red).
View Maryland Casinos in a larger map
Maryland Gaming Expansion: The Making Of Question 7
With budget deficits raising election stakes, Maryland is turning to expanded gambling as a potential economic elixir for revenue and job creation. One of those proposed measures is a referendum on the statewide November ballot, better known as Question 7.
If passed, the referendum would legalize full table games, increase the number of operable video lottery machines from 15,000 to 16,000 and allow the construction of a casino in Prince George’s County.
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation to put Question 7 on the ballot during an August 2012 special session of the general assembly.
The ballot also includes a clause that requires a majority of Prince George’s County voters to approve the measure in order for a license to be issued for the sixth Maryland casino. The designated area for the casino encompasses National Harbor and Rosecroft Raceway.
Despite campaign spending by supporters and detractors of the measure exceeding $35 million this year, talk about expanding gambling legislation is nothing new to Maryland lawmakers.
According to the Baltimore Business Journal, State Senator Katherine Klausmeier, Delegate John Olszewski and House of Delegates gaming subcommittee chair Frank Turner considered a proposal to increase the number of slot machines in Maryland in December 2010. The discussion also included legalizing table games in order to meet the demands of out-of-state competition.
Turner has since spoken out in opposition to the bill he once defended on the House floor.
“Had I not been chairperson of the Subcommittee on Gaming and the floor leader that had to defend the bill (to expand gambling in Maryland) for over six hours and fight off over 50 amendments, I would have voted against the bill,” Turner wrote in a 2012 letter to the Columbia Flier.
In 2008, Maryland voters approved Question 2, a referendum to place up to 15,000 slot machines in designated locations of Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester and Allegany Counties, as well as Baltimore City. Analysts expected all five casinos to open by 2011. To date, only Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, Ocean Downs in Worcester County and, most recently, Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County are open and fully operational.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. You've heard the ads: A vote to expand gambling in Maryland would pump millions into the state's education fund and create thousands of jobs, or a vote to add blackjack and roulette and build a new casino in Prince George's County would enrich casino owners without much benefit to the state.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIGaming companies that operate or want to operate casinos in the region are pouring tens of millions of dollars into both sides of Question 7 on the Maryland ballot making it the highest spending race in state history. The measure would allow table games in a state that approved slot-machine gambling four years ago and would allow one more casino in Prince George's County to join the five that voters have already approved.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe advertising blitz targets the whole state, but voters in Prince George's County face a local decision: Do they want a Las Vegas-style casino in their backyard? Without a major yes vote in the county, state lawmakers say they won't license a new casino there. With three weeks left until Election Day, we'll explore what a yes on seven, victory, would mean for one local county and, by extension, the Washington region.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio to have this conversation is Jacqueline Goodall, chair of the No on 7 campaign. She's also the mayor of Forest Heights, Md. Jacqueline Goodall, thank you for joining us.
MAYOR JACQUELINE GOODALLThank you.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Brad Frome, deputy chief of staff to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. Brad Frome, thank you for joining us.
MR. BRAD FROMEThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd with us also is Aaron Davis. Aaron is Maryland political reporter with The Washington Post. Aaron, glad you can join us.
MR. AARON DAVISGlad to be here.
NNAMDIYou, too, can join this conversation buy calling 800-433-8850. Are you a yes on seven or no on seven, and if so, why? 800-433-8850. Aaron, a lot of people feel like they're bombarded by ads for this gambling measure. You reported yesterday that the spending tally for both sides combined is, like, $47 million and rising. Can you please explain where this money is coming from?
DAVISYeah. If they feel like they've been bombarded, they're right. And they will...
NNAMDIWell, it's only because they've been bombarded.
DAVIS...continue to be. Well, there -- you're right. There's big money here. We are nearing $50 million. We reported that in yesterday -- in Saturday's paper. This was from the latest round of financial disclosure reports.
DAVISAnd to put that in perspective a little bit, you're talking about, at this point, the amount of money being spent on both sides rivals, and will soon pass, the amount that both political parties in the state of Maryland have spent on controlling the state over the past two governor cycles. So eight years of control, political control in the state will be dwarfed by the spending on this casino in Prince George's County. On one side...
NNAMDIWho's doing the spending?
DAVISWell, on one side, you have MGM Resorts, which stands to be the -- is the casino builder and operator that has partnered with the county that says it would be the one that would want to build this casino in Prince George's County, National Harbor. They've spent $17.4 million. On the other side, the largest contributor is, by far, Penn National Gaming. And they've put in $25.1 million, and they control Charles Town, the races and the casino in West Virginia there, as well as Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, Charles Town, it's my understanding, is just about maybe an hour and a half away from National Harbor, and so, I guess, the perception is that a casino at National Harbor would have an adverse effect on Charles Town.
DAVISI think that's the lead. If you look at these numbers, it's hard to read it any other way. There's a pattern here. Penn National Gaming has spent money in the past to defeat casinos or expansions of gambling in other states that it thinks would adversely impact its own business and its bottom line. Four years ago, they spent $34 million in Ohio to defeat an expansion of gambling there. They're poised to do the same here.
NNAMDIBrad Frome, you were the point person on Question 7 for Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who supports it, and you're part of an effort to persuade county voters that they would benefit from a new casino at National Harbor. Let's start with the money. Why would it be a good deal financially for Prince George's County?
FROMESure. And one thing I want to point out, Aaron mentioned that MGM was partnering with the county. I just want to set the record straight. You know, they might be working with National Harbor, but we're not working with any of these companies. They're trying to be successful and hopefully a big opportunity if Question 7 passes, but that's for their sector to determine at the end of day.
FROMEWe support Question 7 because, for a couple of reasons, what it would do for Prince George's County. There's a job creation component. The construction of a facility that we're talking about creates about 2,000 construction jobs. It would create about 4,000 permanent jobs. By state law, it must offer health care benefits, some retirement package. In addition, there's also a component of direct revenue that would float to the county.
FROMEOne of the reasons my boss, County Executive Baker, supports the model he supports is we didn't want to support just what some refer to as a slots bar. You know, you throw up a prefab building. You throw some slot machines in it. You open the doors. What we wanted was a larger facility, more along the lines of a destination resort that not only has gaming as a component but also has the entertainment, has the hotels, has the spa, has the restaurants.
FROMEAnd part of that is not only does it generate more jobs but also generates more revenue because, in addition to getting direct revenue, direct gaming revenue from the state, we also avail ourselves of other revenue sources, property tax, hotel tax, admission and amusement tax, income tax, that you wouldn't traditionally get from the smaller facilities. And when you roll that all together, we're talking about $41 million for the county.
FROMEAnd then, lastly, there's also the education trust fund. Gaming puts a significant amount of the revenue it generates into education in the state of Maryland. Prince George's County, pound for pound, benefits from increased state education spending. So that's an additional reason why we support Question 7, but, for us in the county, the primary reasons are the job creation aspect and the direct revenue we'd be gaining.
NNAMDIWe'll get back to the job creation aspect in a second, but, Jacqueline Goodall, you are chair of the No on 7 campaign and, as I mentioned earlier, mayor of Forest Heights, which sits across the Beltway from National Harbor. You've said the numbers do not add up in favor of Prince George's County. How do you think the measure would affect the county's finances?
GOODALLWell, one of the things that I have looked at when I've looked at this bill -- and I have -- I got involved with this in January when it was first announced that they were considering National Harbor as a site, is the impact that it's going to have on the community. And the community is highly residential, so, when you're trying to put a casino in an area that is highly populated already, then there's going to be some impact on the people who live there.
GOODALLAnd when I also looked at this final bill, what I'm finding out is that there's a lot of giveaway to the casino operators. There's a lot of takeaway from the education trust fund. There is monies that we're giving to other casinos, which is coming out of the part of -- that of the impact fee that is supposed to be coming to Prince George's County. And so when I'm looking at the bill in totality, I find that this bill really needs to have some more a looking at and some more discussion because it is a bad bill for the citizens of Prince George's County.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, if you have questions or comments or opinions about Maryland ballot Question 7, you can call us at 800-433-8850. We're talking with Jacqueline Goodall, chair of the No on 7 campaign. She's also mayor of Forest Heights, Md. Brad Frome is deputy chief of staff to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. And Aaron Davis is Maryland political reporter with The Washington Post. I'd like to read the gaming expansion referendum because I don't know how many people will be able to understand it very clearly.
NNAMDIIt says: Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the state of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education, to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate table games as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500, the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the state; and to increase from five to six the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the state and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George's County?
NNAMDIYou can vote for the additional forms and expansion of commercial gaming or against the additional forms and expansion of commercial gaming. Well, enough said about that. Aaron, what's the procedure for choosing where to build these new casinos, and who will run it if Question 7 does pass?
DAVISWell, there was a special session in Annapolis that decided a lot of this. The regular session in the spring ended and a little bit of chaos as this issue and a couple of others kind of came to a head, and the House and Senate could not agree. But in the special session over the summer, they came up with a plan that, much like the previous gambling measure that went before voters five years ago, that this -- there would be a specific locale that you'd have to build it within this circle.
DAVISThat circle includes National Harbor and southern Prince George's County. It includes Rosecroft Raceway so that there will be a casino built in that area, or there will not be one built anywhere else. And the Senate president has long advocated having one at Rosecroft Raceway. The -- later, he and others have said Prince George's, the National Harbor area would be -- there's so much there already that you should multiply what's going on down there.
DAVISSo that's where. And then the process would be kicked back to the county in some ways to decide, and the state would also have to evaluate all the proposals that come in. So there would be several layers of approvals that would go on. But I think, unlike some -- in the previous referendum and the expansion -- or the allowance of casino gambling in the state five years ago, there's little question now that, I think, this one would be built.
DAVISThe economics were such a few years ago, then the middle of the downturn, the state was not building casinos the way that they thought they were going to. The education -- money for education was not coming in the way they thought it was going to. There's pretty much -- if you look at the amount of money being spent on both sides, it's clear that one casino company or the other believes that there could be a casino built in Prince George's County and it could be very lucrative.
NNAMDIBrad Frome, the Yes on 7 campaign says this measure -- and you have mentioned earlier -- would create a lot of jobs, 40,000 jobs statewide, and some of those would be in Prince George's County. How many, and what would they be?
FROMESure. And I think that the number that you probably hear in the commercials is 12,000 jobs statewide, and that's a component of the 2,000 construction jobs in a county facility, the 4,000 permanent jobs in a Prince George's County facility, additional jobs that may be generated from table games statewide and then secondary impacts, contractors, vendors, et cetera. Under state law, there is a hiring preference for any facility that they hire. They look to make their hires within 10 miles of the facility.
FROMESo obviously, that's something we're focusing on because -- and it's not just from the employees who are going to be working in the establishment. It's also from the subcontractors and the vendors. We have a goal, a mandate of 30 percent participation for MBE firms in the county. Obviously, that's of primary concern the...
NNAMDIWhat's an MBE firm?
FROMEMinority Business Enterprise. And that's obviously important to the administration. And it's to get those secondary impacts, to get those opportunities creating by -- for vendors and subcontractors to also be enjoyed by county firms. And part of it is us building up our capacity and also being suggestive. And also part of being suggestive is ensuring that it actually happens. So it's not just the employees who would actually be employed directly by any kind of facility. It's also these kind of secondary impacts we're talking about.
NNAMDIJacqueline Goodall, what's your opinion about this promise of new jobs and, I guess, the time it would take to get these new jobs online?
GOODALLWell, when we're looking at the bill, the jobs -- construction can't even begin until 2016. So that's the first thing that we're looking at. Then when you're talking about the construction, then you're not even really talking about jobs until 2018. If you're looking at -- these are going to -- it's going to take about two years to build this building. So -- and then I have to look at, where is the workers going to truly come from?
GOODALLIf MGM is going to bring in their own building and their own engineers in, then they're going to bring in people that have knowledge of building their building. So their unions may, in actuality, come from the outside. So when we're looking at their unions coming in from the outside, how many people in this area are actually going to get jobs because they don't belong to those unions?
GOODALLWhen we're looking at the actual jobs in Prince George's County, we're only going to get about 360 workers according to what the Department of Legislative services said that are going to be dealers. And these are the highest-paid jobs. So then we're looking at the rest of the jobs, most of those jobs are going to be part-time or minimum wage-paying jobs. Are these jobs going to come in at a livable wage? When you're talking about a livable wage in Prince George's County, it's roughly about, for one person, roughly about $14 an hour.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. I'll start with Todd in Clarksburg, Md. Todd, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TODDHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I have, I guess, a concern about the notion that the funds or that some of the funds will go into the education trust fund. I know that there's, in Maryland, a maintenance of effort law, which kind of dictates to school systems how much money they put towards schools, and that law was established because of some funny business that localities were doing when they were saying you had to put money towards education and the state would give you money then.
TODDBut because the state was giving the District money, the District said, well, then we don't have to put as much money in. And so what I'm concerned with is that if you say some monies are going towards education from the casino, what's to stop a District from moving other monies away? And so it's a net zero.
FROMESure. And I want to take one second to touch on what Mayor Goodall had just said because there are some inaccuracies, I believe, we got to clean up a bit. Construction of the facility -- the facilities are actually not allowed to open till 2016, so the construction would take place before then. In addition, I'm not sure where our 365 jobs come from. That might just be from the additional table games. But that's not the facility in its totality. In its totality, we're actually talking more on the -- in the range of about 4,000 jobs. And I want to...
NNAMDIWell, you might want to describe the casino that's envisioned from National Harbor if Question 7 passes.
FROMESure. Exactly. And take a step back. In 2007 when Maryland voted to approve slot machines, there was some reluctance, and that reluctance showed up in a couple of ways. They did it basically to -- in a lot of ways, to address the fact that folks were leaving the state of Maryland. Folks were going to West Virginia at the time, Delaware since then, Pennsylvania. So they wanted to set up an array of locations that basically keeps that money inside the state.
FROMEIn addition to that and also kind of part of that reluctance was very high tax rate. The tax rate the time, 67 percent, which is the highest in the country, continues to be such. So what you have is you have this model where you build a building you don't -- you're not really even capable of putting a lot of private capital upfront because of this very high tax rate, and you get these buildings that don't really -- that aren't very appealing.
FROMEAnd what we looked at was that, well, that's not what we're interested in Prince George's County. If we're going to have this, we want a different model. We want a kind of facility that is more along the lines of these places that has, again, gaming as one component of many. So you have the entertainment venues. You have the hotel rooms. You have the restaurants. You have the retails. You have the conference space because that does a couple of things.
FROMEFirst off, it lessens the amount of money that's directly just a result of gaming. You draw folks in who have no interest in gaming. And this is particularly relevant as we sit outside the doorstep on one of the largest tourist destinations on the East Coast. You create a lot more jobs, and you create a lot more tax revenue. You know, back -- and back to these jobs we talk about, and that's -- part of what this model does is, you know, you think of a casino and you have this conception the card dealer or the person who changes in your chips in the cage.
FROMEAnd there are going to be those jobs. And, for the record, you know, we're still talking about jobs that pay living wage that are good jobs that offer health care, that offer retirement, that for a lot of folks are a fantastic opportunity. But it addition to that, and especially in this kind of facility, you have the IT. You have the security. You have the legal. You have the accounting. You have the folks who work the soundstage of the entertainment venue.
NNAMDIAnd you're saying that in the final analysis, that adds up to how many jobs ultimately in Prince George's County?
NNAMDIAnd our caller wanted to know, what do you do about jurisdictions that want to escape on funding by using a complicated formula, education fund?
FROMESo there's two ways that money is going to follow back to Prince George's County that can be used for education. First off, on a statewide basis is money that goes in the education trust fund. Question 7 will mean an aggregate increase of about $199 million into the education trust fund, bringing the total amount per year up to around six, $700 million a year. Now, that goes through formulas. It gets divvied out to jurisdictions. Prince George's County tends to benefit handsomely from those spending formulas.
FROMEBut in addition to that, because we're the host jurisdiction, we also avail ourselves, pardon me, of approximately $41 million. And for County Executive Baker, who's made no bones about it, our priorities are public education and public safety. You know, that's where counties going to rise and fall. So we would obviously look to use also, in addition to the education trust fund, part of that local share money to also increase the amount of revenue we would make available for public education.
NNAMDITodd, thank you very much for your call. I'd like to go now to Delegate Jay Walker who's on the phone from Prince George's County. Delegate Walker, thank you very much for joining us. Some people remember Delegate Jay Walker as, 20 years ago, Howard University's favorite quarterback. But he's now here in another capacity. Jay Walker, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MR. JAY WALKERThanks, Kojo. How are you doing?
WALKERHow are you, Brad? And how are you doing, Madam Mayor Goodall? Forest Heights, my favorite jurisdiction of mine, a municipality in my district. I...
NNAMDIThey all seem to be doing very well.
WALKERWell, I was just calling just to state a couple things. You know, from a legislative standpoint, I share the concerns of the citizens regarding Question 7. But you would be surprised how many folks ask me, can we at least have our voices heard? Can we vote on this? You know, down in the district where I represent, there are buses that leave to go out of state three times a day, going to West Virginia, these other locations.
WALKERSo it became a matter of what's the right thing to do. And when County Executive Baker said, it's got to be a high class facility, I agree with that. And some of the things we put in their legislatively to really protect the citizens down in the 26th District of Prince George's County, there's $20 million for law enforcement. And there's up for $15 million per year to fix Indian Head Highway, which, as many people know, is probably the most congested route within the state of Maryland.
WALKERAnd with that being the case and that being the number one concern that many of my constituents have -- and I'm sure Mayor Goodall would share that as well -- fixing 210 became a priority. So if there's a funding source for this when it's so much harder to find all these transportation projects now than we've seen before, I think that Question 7 would be a good way to go.
NNAMDIDelegate Walker, thank you so much for your call. We're operating on limited time as always, but Jacqueline Goodall, you need to respond.
GOODALLI do need to respond on this because I am concerned, first of all, that the monies that are supposed to be going for the impact fund for Prince George's County -- let's look at the table game split. The table games have been split so that 80 percent goes to the casino. And if Prince George's County doesn't pass but the table games pass, then 20 percent of that will go to the education trust fund.
GOODALLHowever, if the -- if Prince George's County gets the casino, then 5 percent of their money is going to come out of the education trust fund and not out of the casino state. So I'm having a problem with that. Out of that 5 percent, Prince George's County is going to have to pay $600,000 to the other casinos, and they're going to have to pay a 5 percent impact to Baltimore and Arundel County, which is going to lessen the amount of money that Prince George's County is going to get.
GOODALLI want to go back to -- on your first caller's question about the education trust fund. One of the things that I found is, if we're serious about doing something for the education trust fund, then we need to set up something that's very similar to Georgia or Florida where the money is fenced so that, no matter how much money comes in to the education trust fund, that money will be used for the education trust fund and not funnel through to somewhere else should there -- we meet what the ballot is.
GOODALLAnd as far as what Delegate Walker is saying, there's more concerns about our property values being reduced. You want to put a casino in an area that is densely populated. You haven't talked to the people in that area. You haven't talked to the people in Oxon Hill. You haven't talked to people in Fort Washington. However, Peterson Corp., when they wanted to build National Harbor, they did come to the community. And, so far, what they have told us about no gambling ever is a lie.
NNAMDIJay Walker, thank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break. This is the third day of our fall membership campaign here at WAMU 88.5. So we're going to take a short break to talk about that, and then we will resume our conversation on the Maryland ballot Question 7. You can still join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Or, if the lines are busy, go into our website, kojoshow.org, sending us email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on Maryland ballot Question 7. We're talking with Jacqueline Goodall, chair of the No to 7 campaign. She is mayor of Forest Heights, Md. Brad Frome is deputy chief of staff to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. And Aaron Davis is Maryland political reporter with The Washington Post. It looks like the lines are busy. So if you have a question or comment for us, you should probably go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to email@example.com.
NNAMDIAaron Davis, after years of intense debate over slots in Maryland, voters in 2008 approved five facilities with slot machines called video lottery terminals in the ballot language. Question 7 would boost the number of machines in the state and allow table games as well. Update us on how many slots operations are open now and where they are.
DAVISWell, there are a couple of small venues that have been open for a couple of years now. We have one on the Eastern Shore, Ocean Downs, near Ocean Beach, and there's Hollywood Casino in Perryville. The largest one, of course, is Maryland Live!, which is near BWI Airport. And that gives a little bit of a sense of where things could be going in the state. And they opened a few months ago and, in their first month, made about $1 million a day. We're talking about a -- you know, what we're talking about in Prince George's County...
NNAMDIBack up a second. Did you say $1 million a day?
DAVISRight. Those were the early numbers coming out of Maryland Live!, long lines out the door, late into the evening. There's been a lot of numbers -- just if I can real quick, there's been a lot of numbers back and forth on either side of this, and there's -- the proponents make one set of assertions about how much this will make. And the opponents question all those, in large part, because of the history and how slowly things have ramped up in the state.
DAVISAnd so the numbers have not matched reality, early predictions. Here's what we do know. We do know that the state lawmakers approved this in Annapolis this summer largely on the understanding that statewide, this extra casino in Prince George's County and the allowance of table games -- roulette, blackjack, poker -- at the other casinos that are already in existence, that that will, combined, bring in nearly about $200 million annually for the education trust fund.
DAVISAnd certainly there is a question: Does that mean $200 more will be spent? And it's not necessarily true. Future state lawmakers are under no obligation to use that windfall to add to the base that exists now. They could use that money and take the money that they would have put into the education trust fund and use that for something else that they need money for. So does the overall amount of money that's being spent on education in the state increase?
DAVISIt really is up to future lawmakers and who is in the state and how they interpret promises made today, and the amount of money that has been brought into the state so far. Since 2010 -- this is just one number we know for sure -- $471 million, in the three fiscal years since the casinos really got under way in Maryland, has been brought into the state, into the education trust fund. Now that's, compared to expected orders of magnitude, larger, $600 million annually, but that's where we are.
DAVISAnd for Prince George's County specifically, there was a report by the state budget analyst that said, by 2017, we're talking about $16 million coming into the state, extra, for education. This -- the county maintains that that number would be much larger if you look at how it would really affect the state, the county.
NNAMDIBrad Frome, the ballot measure doesn't specify the location of a new casino. The Rosecroft Raceway is one possible site, but its website urges people to vote no on Question 7. Why has the county put its muscle behind National Harbor as the best spot for a casino? Before you respond, I think Cathy in Forestville has essentially the same question, so let me have her ask it. Cathy, was that your question?
CATHYYes, Kojo. Hi. My -- well, I think you've kind of answered it earlier, but my question or statement was that I don't understand why casinos would be proposed for National Harbor when you have Rosecroft, which is already racetrack gambling, and also Laurel, which is also racetrack gambling. It just seems that that would be a natural progression or a natural place to have it. And it's -- seeing what went on with Arundel Mills and Maryland Live!, it's just such a hassle to get there now.
CATHYYou know, you want to go to the movies or something else. And I was disappointed because I didn't know that the casino was going to be actually attached to the mall and on site and everything, and it seems like that's what's going to happen with the harbor.
NNAMDIWell, you allow Brad Frome to answer two questions. Why the location and where exactly would be the casino at National Harbor, and how would it fit in with what's already there?
FROMESure. I think, in fairness, there's a couple of discussions in the county. There's a discussion -- the county and the state, for that matter. There's discussion about does Question 7 make sense? Should we have table games? Should we have a sixth site? And then there's the second discussion of, if there's a sixth site, where should it be?
FROMEMs. Goodall, I must be honest. I was hoping you would acknowledge that, as NBC4 just reported, that Penn National is paying for your organization, which, I think, is a relevant fact because there's a lot of folks who -- and that's fair -- would have preferred Rosecroft as the location. In fact, that had been the going thought before the executive made his preference, stated that it would be at Rosecroft.
FROMEWe looked at it and decided that Rosecroft didn't make as much sense for the kind of facility we were talking about as National Harbor. National Harbor has an existing interchange off the highway. It's part of an entertainment complex. It's part of a $1 billion entertainment complex. It's much closer to the Wilson Bridge. It's much further removed from residential areas.
FROMEAnd at the end of the day, a high-end facility at National Harbor as opposed to a facility at Rosecroft would do one of the things we're looking most for to do, which is tap into this market, tap into the 41 million visitors a year for Washington, D.C., not to mention residents of D.C. and Virginia. In fact, by our estimates, we estimate that approximately 75 to 80 percent of the folks who would go to this facility would be from out-of-state residents, and that's not to mention Prince George's County.
FROMEAnd in fact, in the same study -- we looked at it -- the only way that Rosecroft, a facility at Rosecroft to outperform one at National Harbor was its ability to attract Prince George's residents, which is one of the things that we least wanted to do. So, for these reasons, we felt as though the high-end facility model in National Harbor made sense. And that's what we said we would support.
NNAMDIJacqueline Goodall, Mayor Goodall clearly wants to respond, I guess, not only to everything you said, but by saying that they are getting -- her organization is getting its funding from Penn National Gaming. But, Mayor Goodall, allow me to have you respond at the same time as you answer Kiri's (sp?) question. Kiri, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KIRIThank you. I want to thank you, Kojo, for addressing this issue. And your mention of games of chance at the beginning of the call for pledges would have been a great segue here because I think we're in a big one here. I want to thank Mayor Goodall. She's always out there, working for the people. This is great news that she's here online. And I want to mention the discussion of the job. Don't we have something else to do other than promote casinos as places for people to work?
KIRIWe need more teachers, and we need a lot of other things. There's a lot more to do. And we already have four casinos, and this is a sort of declaration to keep Maryland money in Maryland. Everything that said promotes that it is a rich -- we've got plenty to do. We've got a great place to build more. Let's build it better. And I hope that my neighbors will be aware and intentional about how we keep our dollars here and not bring this magnet for corruption into Prince George's County. Thank you.
NNAMDIMayor Goodall, your turn.
GOODALLOh, yes, I do want to respond to what Mr. Frome said. First of all, one of the things that he said about me working for the ballot initiative and most of the funding coming from Penn National -- as a mayor, you probably know, Brad, that I'm part-time, and I am allowed to have a job. And what better job to have than one that you can do something that it's a passion to you. I didn't just jump into this when this was passed on the 16th.
GOODALLI became involved in it when it was announced on Jan. 16 that they wanted to put the casino at National Harbor. Another point that you made -- and if we want to go there with Rosecroft -- is you said that Rosecroft was further away from the residential area, which is just my point. Why are we going to come into a highly dense -- densely populated area and disrupt the people that live in that area, reduce the value of their homes?
GOODALLNo one, not any of the elected officials came prior to March 31 to even talk to the people in the community. And as far as what we're talking about as the impact -- and I'm going to go a little bit back to the -- to Delegate Walker's question or his comment about the cost of the highways -- the Department of Legislative Services says that the state couldn't incur significant cost associated with the infrastructure and transportation upgrades near their proposed facility in Prince George County depending on where it's going to be.
GOODALLWell, we all know the cost that the state has had to incur, the taxpayers had to incur in building National Harbor. Let us not fool our self that if they put this casino at National Harbor, it's going to cost so much more. And I want to thank your caller for his comments because I do care about the community. And I am not a politician.
GOODALLI am an elected official that is working very hard for those people that don't have a voice, which is one of the reasons I also decided after I talk to my council about taking this position because, otherwise, if it wasn't for the funding source that we had, there are thousands and thousands of people in Prince George County and in Maryland that would be voiceless because we could not have fought against the onslaught that we would have gotten from MGM.
NNAMDIYour turn, Brad Frome.
FROMEI appreciate what you're saying, but at the same time, I know we were -- correct me if I'm wrong -- but you organized meetings for Penn National to meet the community back in January and February. So, again, it's this question of -- and it's fine if we want to have the debate which location makes more sense. But let's be true about what's driving the discussion.
NNAMDIAnd we're running out of time very quickly. We only have about a minute left.
FROMESure. I'll say one last thing. You know, when we look at this in our administration, first off, we've had numerous meetings in the community, and we'll continue to do so. And the executive has made no bones about his views on this matter. If you look at $41 million in direct revenue to Prince George's County, that is the equivalent of raising every homeowner's property tax bill by 10 percent. We are not turning our back regarding our commercial tax base. We have the IDE fund.
FROMEWe're consolidating our permitted agencies. We have initiated numerous transparency measures, and those will continue. That's not to say, though, that it's an either/or proposition.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're just about out of time, except for this, Aaron Davis. When the state legislature put this gambling expansion measure on the ballot, it said it would not go forward with a sixth casino unless a majority of voters in Prince George's County vote yes on Question 7. What is your sense of how this vote is likely to go?
DAVISWell, we have seen some different poll numbers, and everything looks very close at the moment. And Prince George's is ground zero for this. There's no doubt about this. And what happens in Prince George's County, it's not binding in the law was written, but state lawmakers have said they would not go forward unless Prince George's County voters approve it.
DAVISAnd to this point about who's paying for what, I would say that -- assume anything you hear is being paid for in the next few weeks. Penn National Gaming is paying for several nonprofit groups to have a voice on this, every ad, you know? Basically, we have the picture if you would like a casino as you look -- as you drive over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, that's about the first thing you'll see coming at D.C. from that direction.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. But with three weeks left, this is an issue that we will be continuing to discuss on this broadcast. Aaron Davis, thank you for joining us. Aaron is Maryland political reporter for The Washington Post. Brad Frome, thank you for joining us. Brad is deputy chief of staff to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. Jacqueline Goodall, thank you.
NNAMDIJacqueline Goodall is chair of the No on 7 campaign and the mayor of Forest Heights, Md. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo learns about our region's very first "Living Building" in Prince George's County, and finds out how the District's own plans for supergreen affordable homes and sustainable buildings could impact residents and the environment.
On Food Wednesday, we explore the new ways recipes are being presented, with everything from GIFs to scientific method.
Tired of driving in circles around the Verizon Center looking for a parking spot? D.C. thinks they may have the solution: "surge" pricing systems at meters.