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February 16, 2011

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.”


-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:36 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 legislative session
        

Comments

Cordish has the license, let him build. Jockey club is a dying venture and shouldn't interfere. Didn't see Cordish interfere with Hollywood in Perryville. The Maryland Jockey Club and it's owners didn't have the means to get the license or follow the rules, so they should just fade away. The citizens have voted!!!!

The Jockey club is about to fad away but Penn National has a plan in place to get more slots licenses in this state. It starts with the money they are giving to lawmakers election campaigns and it is going after all of the horse tracks in the state that it can in hopes that it will get a license for them as well. I think that the 1 casino per company rule we have in this state is a very good one and helps keep the bully's and mobsters out or limited. Any legislation that is passed about this should definitely involve a clause that allows a license to be revoked and a company blacklisted from gaming activities in this state

Governor O'Malley needs to stand behind the people of Anne Arundel County and stop wasting our revenue! Does the voting process stand for anything?? Cordish will buy the racetrack, right?? Problem solved. Penn National needs to go away and take their high-powered, high-paid attorney with them.Cordish is the HOME TEAM just like the Ravens!! Go HOME TEAM!!

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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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