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Milt Peterson of Fairfax County, Va., has plan to fix dream project at National Harbor in Prince George's County

8:22 PM, Sep 28, 2012   |    comments
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NATIONAL HARBOR, FT WASHINGTON, MD (WUSA) -- Milt Peterson's mom and dad were so devout, they didn't drink -- and they certainly didn't gamble.

But now the Fairfax County developer is one of the biggest advocates of casino gambling in Maryland.

Why? A request from the County Executive. The dream of a big resort destination. And money the developer says is leaving Maryland for West Virginia -- money that could be spent at his dream project: National Harbor in Prince George's.

Spend a few minutes with Milt Peterson, and the 76 year old is likely to grab you by the shoulders and try and sell you on his dreams.

Peterson's biggest dream was National Harbor: a two billion dollar gamble on shops, hotels, condos and office space next to the Wilson Bridge in Prince Georges. "The timing was about as bad as you could have," says Peterson.

His dream opened just as the economy crashed. Office space went unfilled. Disney pulled out. But now Peterson has a plan to fix it. "This is a resort, this isn't just a casino," says Peterson. "This is a resort that has as one of it's amenities, along with a spa, along with the upscale retail, along with the theaters, with that emotional stuff is another amenity called a casino."

Peterson's plans have faced a furious onslaught funded in large part by Penn National, which makes millions on casinos in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. "We've heard those empty promises before," about claims that the new casino would create thousands of jobs.

Caesar's, and MGM -- and Peterson -- have responded with a barrage of ads of their own. "We have a demand that's sitting right here," says Peterson. "Right now, $560 million goes out of Maryland for other states that can stay here."

Peterson hopes to build on empty land by the Beltway... figures most of the customers will come from Virginia... and that millions will flow to Maryland taxpayers... not just from poor people who play slots... but from wealthy folks like him. "I gamble, but I sure don't play slots."

The anti-casino ads are sure right about one thing. The estimates for slot revenues were way more than the slots parlors delivered.

But Peterson says his resort casino will be like something out a Vegas, a good deal for him -- and Maryland taxpayers.

A Gonzales poll this month found that 45% of Maryland voters say they will vote For Question 7, while 46% say they will vote Against Question 7, with 9% undecided.

Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com
Twitter: @BruceLeshan

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