Source: Penn National angling to buy share in Maryland Live casino

Potential deal could shift heated referendum campaign

September 25, 2012|By Annie Linskey and Chris Korman, The Baltimore Sun

Penn National has spent $13 million to defeat Question 7 and protect its gambling interests in Maryland.

Now it may be abruptly altering its strategy. The Pennsylvania-based company, which owns Hollywood Casino Perryville, is in discussions with the Cordish Cos. about acquiring a 49 percent stake in the Maryland Live Casino, according to a state source familiar with details of the negotiations. The Washington Post first reported the talks on its Maryland Politics blog.

Officials from Cordish Cos. could not be reached Tuesday. Eric Schippers of Penn National said the company would not comment on speculation.

A state panel must approve any major change in casino ownership. Maryland law does not allow a company to own more than one casino in the state. If the deal were to go forward, Penn National would have to sell its casino in Perryville.

David Cordish, who owns the Cordish Cos., and Penn National spent millions fighting on opposite sides of a 2010 Anne Arundel County ballot initiative on gambling. At the time, Penn National owned a minority share in nearby Laurel Park racetrack and had hoped to install slots there.

More recently, the two companies' interests aligned: Both originally fought the legislation allowing a sixth casino in Prince George's County.

Cordish, whose company has not entered the fray surrounding November's referendum, has said that he believes Maryland Live will be the region's dominant casino even if Question 7 passes. It generated more than $96 million in its first three months and unveiled an additional 1,043 slot machines earlier this month.

Penn National bought Rosecroft racetrack at auction last year, with hopes of securing a casino license. As momentum for a Prince George's facility shifted toward the National Harbor project, though, the company began fighting the sixth casino and implementation of table games. It owns casinos in West Virginia and Pennsylvania that could lose customers to Maryland.

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