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Slots Testimony Seen In A New Light

Written testimony submitted to the Maryland General Assembly this month by Penn National Gaming has become a better read in light of the Pennsylvania company's announcement this week that it was pulling out of a deal to buy Rosecroft Raceway, the struggling harness track in Prince George's County.

Company officials blamed the legislature's decision not to make the track eligible for a license to operate slot machines -- or video lottery terminals, in legislative parlance -- if voters approve a referendum next year. Two other exisiting horse racing tracks are eligible for, but not guaranteed, licenses under the bill that passed.

Here's what Eric Schippers, the vice president of public affairs and government relations, had to say about Rosecroft and slots in testimony submitted Nov. 2, during the first week of a special legislative session devoted to fixing the state budget:

"We have spent a great deal of time introducing ourselves to the Prince George's community, including members of our legislative delegation, county council, local business owners, leaders of local charities and civic organizations, and, of course, our more than 375 employees at Rosecroft. Penn National is taking a long-term perspective on Rosecroft, and we've reassured everyone we've met that our purchase agreement is not contingent on the approval of video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the track."

Another development in Maryland racing this week has prompted questions about the likelihood of Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County winning a slots license.

Maryland Jockey Club President Lou Raffetto Jr., who ran Laurel Park and Pimlico in Baltimore, was fired by Magna Entertainment, the Canadian racing conglomerate that owns the tracks. Raffetto was widely respected in Maryland, while leading lawmakers have openly questioned Magna's peformance operating slots at other venues in the country.

The bill that passed the legislature was written with Laurel in mind but is crafted in such a way that other companies could bid for a slots license in the area. The legislation makes operations within two miles of MD Route 295 eligible. A commission appointed by the governor and legislative leaders is tasked with picking the locations if the referendum passes.

By John Wagner  |  November 30, 2007; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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