Maryland gaming regulators ruled Thursday that three casino companies, including MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming, were suitable applicants to compete for a single gaming license that could place a multimillion-dollar casino complex near the nation’s capital.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission unanimously made the decision at a meeting in Baltimore. The ruling sets the stage for public hearings later this month into the three proposals for a casino license in Prince George’s County. Analysts expect the state’s final available gaming license to be awarded by the end of the year.
Prince George’s County borders Washington, D.C., to the east.
“The background investigations were both thorough and lengthy,” Union Gaming Group Managing Director Bill Lerner told investors.
Lerner said the news was positive for MGM Resorts, because investigators delved into the company’s business dealings with Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho in the ownership of the MGM Grand Macau. Ho is the daughter of controversial Macau casino owner Stanley Ho, who has been linked to Chinese organized crime triads.
“The company’s prior dealings with Pansy Ho were reportedly a key focus of the investigation and accordingly the state found no issues related to MGM’s current or historical business in Macau,” Lerner said. “We think the approval has positive ramifications for MGM’s ability to be relicensed in New Jersey and obtain licensing in Springfield, Mass.”
According to the Washington Post, MGM Resorts was also investigated for its dealings with former board member Terry Christensen, who was convicted in 2008 on federal wiretapping charges for conspiring with private investigator Anthony Pellicano to wiretap the ex-wife of Kirk Kerkorian.
The state’s regulatory enforcement division recommended that MGM officials file periodic status reports on their Macau operation and to refrain from any personal or business contact with Christensen.
MGM Resorts last month unveiled designs for an $800 million resort development in the National Harbor complex, which is south of Washington, D.C., on the banks of the Potomac River.
“We are very pleased with the results of the process in Maryland,” MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren said in a statement. “Our company has undergone similar processes in a number of jurisdictions and we found Maryland’s process to be thorough, comprehensive, and conducted in a fair and professional manner.”
Penn National Gaming wants to develop a casino at Rosecroft Raceway, which the company operates near National Harbor. The other applicant is Maryland Casino LLC, a subsidiary of Greenwood Racing.
Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino told the Washington Post the background checks presented to the commission took nearly five months to complete. State law requires background investigations to assess the financial capabilities and stability of potential casino owners as well as their integrity and good character.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.