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MGM files proposal for Maryland resort after costly battle

A visitor walks past the MGM Grand Macau resort in Macau February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
A visitor walks past the MGM Grand Macau resort in Macau February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Sue Zeidler

(Reuters) - MGM Resorts International on Thursday filed a proposal with the state of Maryland to develop an $800 million casino resort, after winning the right to proceed with the project in a costly lobbying effort against rival Penn National Gaming Inc .

MGM filed its proposal for a license with the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission to develop the resort on 20 acres of waterfront property in National Harbor in Prince George's County, just south of Washington, D.C.

Maryland voters in November passed a controversial measure to expand gambling in the state, which enabled MGM to proceed with its bidding. The measure, known as Maryland Question 7, permitted bidding for a sixth casino license.

Penn National, which already operates a casino in the state, opposed the expansion.

Maryland officials said the combined lobbying costs of nearly $90 million was a record amount spent on any one initiative.

MGM paid the majority of the $45.3 million spent by a consortium including Peterson Development Cos LLC and local unions that backed the measure, while Penn National spent about $42 million in opposing it.

Penn National sought to protect its Rosecroft Raceway facility in Fort Washington, Maryland, which is also in Prince George's county.

Penn bought the raceway for $10.25 million in a bankruptcy auction in 2011 in hopes of revitalizing it as a casino. It said on Thursday it will also file a proposal with the commission by its deadline on Friday, but has low expectations of winning the license.

Penn National operates the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in neighboring West Virginia, and the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Maryland.

"Though we intend to participate in the bidding process, we believe another operator could be selected, and as a result our financial results would be adversely impacted as it would create additional competition for Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Hollywood Casino Perryville," said Penn National in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 10Q filing on May 3.

The November measure set the stage for Maryland's largest gambling expansion since 2008, when voters approved a ballot measure for slot machines at five locations.

MGM has said the National Harbor resort will create 2,000 construction jobs and up to 4,000 permanent jobs. If MGM wins the bid, as is widely expected, the new casino would open in 2016.

"We are going to live up to our commitments," Lorenzo Creighton, president and COO of MGM's MGM National Harbor subsidiary, told Reuters, referring to its pledges to create jobs and economic benefits to the region.

MGM has said the luxury casino resort would have about 200 table games and 4,000 slot machines, along with many restaurant and entertainment options.

(Reporting by Susan Zeidler; Editing by Carol Bishopric)

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