Slots interference bill gets quick hearing
The sponsor of legislation designed to prevent the state’s slots licensees from interfering in each other's business ventures told a state Senate panel considering the bill Wednesday that it was essential to “protecting the state’s revenue.”
Sen. James E. DeGrange, a Democrat from Anne Arundel County, spoke briefly before the committee this afternoon
“When you have a slots license, you’re an agent of the state and you shouldn’t be interfering in any way shape or form,” DeGrange said.
The issue has come to the forefront recently as the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which holds a slots license in Anne Arundel County, has sought to construct a 4,750-slot machine parlor at Arundel Mills mall. The Maryland Jockey Club, which is partially owned by Penn National Gaming, mounted a ballot referendum to prevent Cordish from building the casino. Penn National developed and owns a new casino in Perryville.
Cordish filed a $600 million lawsuit against the Jockey Club, Penn National and the several other entities yesterday, alleging that the companies conspired to spread falsehoods about Cordish’s management of a casino in Indiana, in order to prevent him from winning support to build the casino in Anne Arundel County.
Members of the Senate and Budget Taxation Committee, which heard the bill, did not pose any questions. No other witnesses were called.
DeGrange is co-sponsoring the bill along with Edward J. Kasemeyer, chairman of the committee.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler weighed in on the issue last year, after Cordish asked the Maryland Lottery Commission to “levy substantial fines” against Penn National for its involvement in the campaign. Gansler found that the lottery commission did not have the authority to regulate “election-related activities of its licensees” because those would be considered protected under free speech.
In a letter to the committee, Eric Schippers, a senior vice president at Penn National, called the bill “overly broad [and] unduly vague” and “squarely directed at protected political speech.”
Schippers also refers to the Cordish suit filed yesterday, saying it is “meritless and full of unsupported facts and innuendo” and says the bill would prevent defendants such as Penn National from “presenting a full and complete defense against this baseless suit.”
He adds, “[The bill] is an unprecedented limitation on a party’s rights to fully avail itself of the protections of the judicial system.”