Loose Lips

New Prince George’s County Casino Could Cost D.C.

LL has a hard time reconciling how Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley thinks he has a chance of being president in 2016 when one of his biggest accomplishments as governor could be opening some sure-to-be gaudy Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George's County. But hey, that's not LL's beat.

But the D.C. Lottery, which the feds are currently looking at as part of their widespread investigation into possible municipal corruption, is on LL's turf. And if Maryland voters approve O'Malley's plan to open a casino in P.G. County, it'll likely mean that the D.C. Lottery takes a sizeable short-term hit, says an executive with the gaming company that operates the city's lotto.

Byron Boothe, vice president of government relations for gaming giant Intralot, says that a new casino at National Harbor (that's one of the proposed sites, the other is Rosecroft Raceway) could cause a dip in District lotto revenue of about 10 to 20 percent. That estimate is based on what's happened in other states where a casino has opened, Booth says. But, he adds, that drop in numbers is likely to rebound to current levels two or three years after the casino opens and the glitz and glamor wear off.

So what does that mean for the District's budget? Online yearly reports from the lotto show that it's been kicking in between $65 million to $74 million to the District's general fund from 2006 to 2010. (The contributions to the city have fluctuated between years, while the overall revenues dropped from $266 million in 2006 to $230 million in 2010.) A 20 percent hit could mean about a $14 million cut per year for the city's general fund. Times three years and we're talking a rough estimate of $40 million in total impact. A spokesman for the CFO's office says they would expect a decrease but they don't have an estimate.

LL knows what you're thinking: what a great excuse to revive D.C.'s failed bid to be the first in the nation to legalize online gambling! The CFO's fiscal impact statement had the lotto boosting its revenues by $12 million in 2014, with more than $5 million of that going into the general fund. Boothe says that if the city had stayed the course and instituted online gambling, it would have blunted any loss from a Prince George's casino. But he also adds that it's too late to put that particular cow back in the barn. Boothe says D.C.'s competitive advantage was the speed in which it was going to legalize online gambling. If the city tried to do it again, he predicts Maryland and/or Virginia would probably follow suit.

"Any advantage D.C. would have had with igaming has come and gone," Boothe says.

But that's just his opinion. For other proponents of online gambling, a huge drop in lotto revenues might be a golden second-chance ticket.

  • Jerry

    It will cost PG too - have you ever looked at Atlantic City a couple of blocks inland of the casinos? Or seen what has happened to once healthy small businesses along the boardwalk? When gambling sucks up all the loose cash, there isn't much left for the rest of the community.

  • Typical DC BS

    I always wondered about Atlantic City's wilderness a few blocks away from the casinos. I blame the city and state government for that. All that money they rake in from the casinos and very little seems to get reinvested in the nearby community. Would seem to make sense to zone nearby for businesses (other than pawn shops) that complement gambling, as well as housing (and not public housing) for the casino workers (i.e. apartments and condos).

  • Sally

    Clearly this shows the need for one of the Council members to introduce emergency legislation to immediately allow online gambling.

  • dave202

    I guess none of you numbnuts ever went to AC BEFORE casinos! It made Anacostia look like a walk in the park. And I'm sure you haven't been there in the last 5 years. Most of the rabble is gone and it's becoming a very hip place. Get you stories right before you comment, please.

  • Typical DC BS

    Uh Dave202: A/C was crappy for the past 25 years outside of the casino areas on the beach. If it's gotten marginally better in the past 5 years, great. I'm sure the vast majority of A/C still leaves a LOT to be desired.

  • Ugh

    "some sure-to-be gaudy" is quite presumptuous. Are these people just not allowed to have nice things? Anything they try is automatically shut down, debased, and disparaged right off the bat.