Penn National: We have the right to oppose Arundel Mills slots

September 20, 2010

On behalf of Penn National Gaming, I write to express my continued disappointment with this paper's strident editorial support for the Cordish Companies' proposed slots parlor at the Arundel Mills Mall, despite the broad-based overwhelming local citizen opposition to the proposal. In your latest opinion piece ("Hardly 'free' speech," Sept. 17), you go so far as to describe our constitutionally protected right of political free speech as a laughable matter.

Yet, ironically, The Sun has fought to protect First Amendment freedoms for 173 years — I suppose the question to ask is, for whom? To follow the logic that we do not have a right to partake in political activity because we are a prospective licensee of the state would suggest that anyone with a business affiliation with the state should remain silent too, including teachers' unions, government employee unions, hairdressers, commercial truck drivers or any company who bids for any state contract for that matter.

Our commitment to Maryland is stronger than ever, and we were one of the most active corporate participants in the effort to legalize slots in Maryland in 2008. Not only is Penn National Gaming looking forward to opening the state's first casino in Perryville, we've made a substantial investment in the ownership and operation of the historic Maryland Jockey Club, whose assets include Laurel Park and Pimlico race courses. Had our intent been to simply protect our West Virginia interests, our strategy would have been one of opposition, not support, of the legalization and expedient operations of slots in this state. Penn National is known for being a strong gaming and racing operator — one that drives success for both our shareholders and our host states and communities.

If plans for a casino at Arundel Mills Mall are defeated in the November referendum, we are prepared to use our company's extensive racing and gaming experience and financial resources to work with local horsemen, community members and leaders in Laurel to advocate for a casino license at Laurel Park, where Maryland's rich racing heritage and associated jobs can be preserved. Just as they have been preserved at tracks we own and operate in seven other states around the country.

Eric Schippers, Wyomissing, Penn.

The writer is the senior vice president for public affairs at Penn National Gaming, Inc.

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