Last month, the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Gaming Commission awarded Maryland’s next casino in Prince George’s County to MGM Resorts. MGM plans to build a $925 million resort casino at National Harbor. MGM beat out three other companies for the bid, Greenwood Racing, Penn National Gaming, and MGM Resorts International.
However, commission chairman, Donald Fry’s, connections to a public affairs firm used by MGM to push for expanded gambling in Maryland raises some serious questions. Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Fry to chair the commission.
As I detailed in Baltimore Sun oped earlier this month, KO Public Affairs is run by two highly connected political operators, Steve Kearney, O’Malley’s former communications director, Damian O’Doherty former top aide to Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, who is now Secretary of Transportation.
KO was also a major player in the push to expand gambling in Maryland. During the 20102 special session on expanded gambling, they and marred the line between being a lobbying firm and a media outlet.A KO employee was photographed on the floor of the Senate wearing a Center Maryland media credential during debate on the gambling expansion bill.KO was representing MGM Resorts, which is looking to build a casino at National Harbor.According to state campaign finance records KO received more than $400,000 from casino interests to advocate passage of the ballot question approving expanded gambling in last year’s election.
According to the Maryland State Ethics Commission’s annual report, that group spent more than $2.7 million lobbying Maryland government during the year the legislature approved the referendum that went to the ballot.The address listed for Building Trades for National Harbor and Maryland Workers for National Harbor on the ethics commission’s employer report, is the same address as KO lists for its office on its website.