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December 18, 2009

Plans for slots in Baltimore dashed; jockeying continues elsewhere

The twists and turns that have come to define Maryland's nascent slot-machine program continued yesterday.

The biggest blow came from a state commission that dashed plans for the Celebration Casino in downtown Baltimore by tossing a bid for a slots license from Baltimore City Entertainment Group. The group had proposed building a 3,750-machine casino near the city sports stadiums but never coughed up the necessary licensing fees. Read more below.

Meanwhile, jockeying continues over who will put slots in Anne Arundel County. Penn National Gaming Inc. is one of six bidders vying to buy Laurel Park, where some say slots should be located. But Baltimore developer Cordish Cos. wants to put slots at Arundel Mills mall, and he's gotten the nod from the state slots commission. For that story, click here.

City slots parlor rejected
Md. panel frustrated by developer's failure to pay required fees

Maryland's slots commission rejected Thursday a bid to build a casino in downtown Baltimore, a decision that will delay much-needed revenue for the state and hamper city efforts to cut property taxes.

Commissioners said they were frustrated by the Baltimore City Entertainment Group's failure to meet deadlines or to pay millions of dollars in required fees, as well as a lack of clarity about who would control the project.

Chairman Donald C. Fry said the panel had been "more than patient" during the 10 months it weighed the Baltimore proposal, but decided not to wait longer because of "considerable doubt that additional time will produce a complete proposal."

The commission's unanimous decision marks another setback for the fledgling slots program in Maryland, which many had hoped would provide needed tax revenue amid repeated budget shortfalls. It means that two of the five casino sites approved last fall by Maryland voters are nonstarters and must be rebid, while another location at Arundel Mills mall is mired in a county zoning debate. The Anne Arundel facility is considered the biggest potential money-maker.

Mayor Sheila Dixon, who had promised that Baltimore's share of slots revenue would go directly to a property tax cut, expressed disappointment that the license was not granted.

"We did everything we were supposed to do," Dixon said. "I'm not sure if these facilities are a true priority for the state."

For the full story, click here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 8:45 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Slots


Bottom line here is that Maryland will never be able to derive enough reveune from slot machines to make an impact on our Budget issues. It's too late, we are beating a dead horse. Neighboring states were much more proactive on the legalized gambling front 10 years ago and have lapped Maryland in this respect. Partisan bickering got in the way of any real progress being made then and now the ship has sailed. Turn on the local news every night and you have commercials for West Virgina's raceparks and now Delaware's new sports betting palors. I fear we will never be able to bring those funds back into Maryland now that they are going out of the state.
As Marylanders we need to be creative and began exploring other avenues of reveune generation besides tax increases or slots.

It is time to put slots at Laurel!

I can remember when Delaware Park and Charles Town were second rate tracks with low level claimers. But with slot machines came an influx of money to rejuvenate a dying business. This occurred more than a decade ago. Maryland was too late in legalizing slots. Too much bipartisan politics. Now instead of CT and DP dying, it is the Maryland tracks that have suffered. Stop all the bickering and place the slots at both Pimlico, Laurel, Rosecroft, and Ocean Downs. All the tracks covered. Then divide the rest of the licenses to the rest of the state. North, South, East, and West. But wait, it may be just too late. My suggestion only.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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