Martin Knott, the newly elected chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Corp., likes the idea of expanded gaming at the National Harbor.
So do Knott's friends, who just happen to run a public affairs firm that represents MGM Resorts and is running ads for union interests that want to see a new casino at the Prince George's County site.
Since becoming chairman of MEDCO, Knott spent the last week writing opinion pieces and doing interviews advocating for a sixth casino specifically at the National Harbor site.
"All of this is inevitable, at some point it is going to happen," Knott said of expanded gambling during a Saturday interview on the Jimmy Mathis Show on WBAL radio.
Mathis asked Knott if he favored locating the sixth casino at National Harbor.
"It certainly fits the profile of National Harbor," Knott said.
Knott went on to repeat some bullet point items that appear in radio and television ads calling for expanded gaming including the creation of 8,400 jobs, and attracting $800 million in new investment. The money generated could go to schools and other needs around the state.
"The city needs the property tax reduction they'll get out of this," Knott said, adding that it would also mean as much as $30 million to other jurisdictions such as Baltimore County.
"In Baltimore County, 46 percent of our schools don't have air conditioning," Knott said. "That's $20-$25 million that is just not going to be there (without expanded gambling). I look at that and say, 'Gosh, we could air condition 10 schools with that.'
"We cannot continue to lose $300 million a year," Knott said.
What has not been mentioned are Knott's ties to Kearney O'Doherty Public Affairs, a politically-connected Baltimore-based firm that represents a union group and a casino operator that also have an interest in the National Harbor site.
Knott was one of three founders of the website CenterMaryland.org along with Steve Kearney and Damian O'Doherty, partners in Kearney O'Doherty Public affairs. Kearney is a former top aide to Gov. Martin O'Malley. O'Doherty is a former chief of staff to former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith.
Patch reached out to Knott and asked him to respond to questions about the connection with KO Public Affairs.
Knott instead sent an email with a three-sentence statement: "MEDCO’s mission is to help our state’s businesses create and retain jobs. That’s what I intend to work on as the newly elected chair. You’ll be hearing more from me in the future on business-related issues."
A representative at KO Public Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
KO Public Affairs has done some work for MGM Resorts. Last month, Howard Libit, a KO Public Affairs employee who also is listed as a founder of CenterMaryland.org, sent out a statement announcing the MGM Resorts had entered into an agreement to build a casino at the Prince George's County location.
KO Public Affairs is also responsible for assisting the Building Traders for the National Harbor in buying time to run radio and television commercials calling for a referendum to expand gambling.
David Moon obtained copies of the ads, which can be found on his Marylandjuice.com blog.
So far, the House and Senate have not been able to come to an agreement on a plan that would have lead to a second special session this year. That session was supposed to start today.
Knott, on WBAL, said he doesn't understand the resistance from the House of Delegates and Republican legislators.
"We don't live in those times any more where we can be playing these games," Knott said, adding that he believes a deal will eventually come together.
Some of the opposition is related to issues surrounding the protection of other casinos such as Maryland Live, which obtained their license with the expectation it would be one of just five regional casinos.
"I really believe there is a deal out there that protects the Anne Arundel County (casino) and protects the Baltimore City site," Knott said.