October 21, 2011

State writes down forecast for slots revenues

Citing competition from other states and the slow recovery from the recession, Maryland's budget analysts wrote down slots revenues over the next five years by 12 percent or $474.3 million.

The new, lower figures are sure to be used in the upcoming session by groups interested in either adding table games to the menu of gaming options in Maryland and expanding gambling to new locations. Additions could include gaming at Rosecroft Raceway or National Harbor in Prince George's County or Frederick County where Sen. David Brinkley recently held a public hearing airing the idea.

In the forecast (p. 18), state budget analysts from Maryland's Department of Legislative Services revise an earlier prediction that revenues at the slots parlors in Cecil County and at Ocean Downs would "ramp up" over time. Now the revenues are expected remain flat.

The new estimate takes a $56 million chunk out of the state's roughly $13 billion general fund budget for this year. Baltimore city's casino, when it gets up and running, is still expected to be the state's second most lucrative, generating $336 million a year in taxes.

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Categories: Slots

September 28, 2011

Slots commission may dismiss two bids

** UPDATE: Slots commission voted to reject one bid in Baltimore, and one at Rocky Gap

Staff to Maryland's slots commission this afternoon recommended tossing one of the two bids to build a casino in Baltimore and one of the three proposals for Rocky Gap. Commissioners are meeting in a closed session.
Robert Howells of the State Lottery Agency recommended ejecting a bid by Baltimore City Casino LLC, because the group failed to provide the required $22.5 million licensing fee when they submitted their proposal last week. A man attending the meeting who said he was from that group declined to talk to a reporter.

If the commissioner accepts the staff recommendation, the only bid standing for Baltimore will be one headlined by Caesars Entertainment.

Howells also recommended removing Allegany Entertainment Group from the mix of potential casino owners at Rocky Gap. The group had proposed a 200 VLT casino, but failed to provide "numerous" other parts of the bid, Howells said.

Missing elements included affidavits attesting to conflicts of interests by the principals, fees for conducting background checks, and a litigation protest bond. "We feel this is far beyond a minor irregularity," Howells said.
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September 23, 2011

Caesars wants to run Baltimore casino

Sun reporter Alison Knezevich reports ....

Caesars Entertainment Corp., the world's largest casino operator, applied Friday for the license to run the slot machine parlor proposed for Baltimore, while three developers will compete for the opportunity to run a casino in Western Maryland.

Caesars submitted a bid for a 3,750-machine casino on Russell Street in Baltimore. The location drew another bidder, Baltimore City Casino LLC, but the company did not submit the required $22.5 million initial license fee and is likely to be disqualified, state slots commission Chairman Donald C. Fry said.

There will be more competition for the slots license at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County. Landow Partners LLC, the Bethesda firm owned by former Democratic state Chairman Nathan Landow; Allegany Entertainment Group and Potts Gaming; and Paragon Project Resources of Dallas, under the name Evitts Resort LLC, submitted bids for that license.

Fry said licenses could be awarded early next year. For now, he said, officials will scrutinize the applications before the slots commission meets next week to ensure they meet minimum requirements.

"We'll have to continue to examine the proposals," he said. "But we're fortunate that the remaining two facilities that have not been awarded licenses now have applications to consider."

Read the full story here.

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Categories: Slots

July 20, 2011

State to extend bid deadline for city slots license

** Update - Slots commission extended Baltimore deadline by 2 months **

Maryland's slots commission convened a meeting on short notice to decide whether to give Baltimore developers an additional two months to hand in their casino proposals, adding yet another twist to the long-delayed project.

The commissioners are discussing the matter in closed session now.

The idea is under consideration on the same day that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is rolling out her plans to spend the slots revenue. She wants to put most of the money toward reducing city property taxes by nine percent. It is unclear how much the delay -- it if occurs -- will impact her plan.

Robert Howells, with the State Lottery Agency, said during the meeting that his office needs more time to answer questions from potential Baltimore casino developers. He characterized their inquiries as "very technical" and "very thoughtful."

"It is difficult to cut off questions," Howells said, noting that he is aware that is answers may affect whether some groups decide to bid.

Developers for the Baltimore project are supposed to turn in their plans by next Thursday. A delay would likely put the due date after the Baltimore mayoral primary, eliminating any potential embarrassment should bids fail to materialize.

Baltimore developer Patrick Turner attended the meeting with his business partner Jim Seay, who owns Premier Rides and recently traveled to Asia with Gov. Martin O'Malley. The pair declined to comment.

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July 6, 2011

Perryville parlor sees summer doldrums

Gaming revenues dipped for second straight month due to lackluster returns at the state's largest casino in Perryville, The Sun reported today.

Revenues were up slightly at the Ocean Downs casino -- summer is supposed to be their best season -- but the bump on the shore wasn't enough to buoy overall revenues, according to a story by colleague Hanah Cho. The combined VLT program brought in $13.3 million in May. In June the total dropped to $12.6 million.

Maryland voters approved five casinos in 2008, but only two are operational. Late last month officials issued an RFP for Rocky Gap -- the third attempt to find a developer willing to turn the failing resort into a casino. The state is also awaiting a second round of bidding on a proposed project in Baltimore City.

A fifth casino is under construction at the Arundel Mills shopping mall.
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June 21, 2011

City clears legal hurdle over slots site

City officials have agreed to pay a local development team $1.2 million to settle a 2007 deal on a portion of land included in the 17-acre parcel slated for a slots parlor, clearing one of the last legal hurdles before the site can be developed.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office announced today that it had reached the agreement with Gateway South LLC, headed by Samuel Polakoff, over the 11-acre site off of Russell Street. The deal is slated to go before the five-member Board of Estimates tomorrow.

The quasi-public Baltimore Development Corporation awarded the exclusive negotiating rights to Polakoff for the 11-acre waterfront site in 2007. Polakoff, whose company was then called Cormony Development LLC, had plans to team with Ray Lewis to build offices, shops, restaurants and a sports entertainment complex on the site.

Polakoff had initially asked for as much as $4 million to repay the investment he had made in the property, but the city negotiated the amount down, according to a statement from Rawlings-Blake's office.

One last legal challenge remains on the site. Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer, who was the sole bidder on the casino in 2009, is appealing the state's decision not to grant his company a slots license.

The state slots commission issued a new request for proposals for the site in late April and applications are due at the end of next month. Moldenhauer is among the developers who are considering placing a bid on the project.

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Categories: City Hall, Slots

June 15, 2011

Cordish: Arundel's Maryland Live! on track for 2012

Before discussing Maryland's two unawarded slots projects, the state Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission received assurances this week from the Cordish Cos. that its casino at Arundel Mills Mall will be open in roughly one year.

With 4,750 terminals, it will be the largest of the five slots facilities in the state. Cordish expects to open the site in June 2012 with 3,000 machines -- double the number at what is now the state's largest parlor, Hollywood Casino in Perryville. The other slots site, at Ocean Downs race track on the Eastern Shore, has 750 machines. The state is seeking proposals on projects in Baltimore and Rocky Gap.

Joseph Weinberg, president of development at Cordish, told the slots panel that the company decided to "condense" the construction timetable by scrapping plans for a temporary site and working full-steam on the permanent structure. "There is a pretty good chance," he said, that all 4,750 machines will be up and running by October 2012.

The size of the parlor will undoubtedly provide a boost to state finances; the state gets a 67 percent cut of all slots revenue. Cordish first detailed its new plans in May, which will cost the state more than $100 million in lost profits from the temporary facility. The change in plans came after Cordish fended off time-consuming legal challenges filed by area homeowners working with the Maryland Jockey Club, which had sought to pry away the county's only slots license.

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June 13, 2011

Slots commission readies Rocky Gap bid

The state slots commission is ready to issue a new request for proposals to develop a casino at Rocky Gap resort in Western Maryland. The panel also approved slight changes to the bid for a far larger project in Baltimore.

Rocky Gap and Baltimore are the last of the five slots licenses available in Maryland, and state officials have had a tough time attracting qualified bidders to either project -- Rocky Gap because of its remote location in Allegany County and Baltimore because of its higher financial requirements.  

At a meeting today in Annapolis, the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission determined that the Rocky Gap RFP could go out by the end of next week. It will be the state's third attempt to lure a developer to the money-losing state-owned property and will reflect the General Assembly's attempt to sweeten the deal by lowering the tax rate from 67 percent to 50 percent.

Proposals would be due in mid- to late-September, said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the slots commission. The panel also approved technical changes to a request for proposals on the Baltimore site.

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May 20, 2011

Horse racing: How Miller would mitigate 'disaster'

There's no doubt Maryland lawmakers love horse racing -- they've given the industry $45 million in recent years and have promised it future annual payouts of up to $140 million through slots revenue.

Yet even its staunchest advocate in Annapolis, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, acknowledges that horse racing, anchored by the money-losing Maryland Jockey Club, is deeply troubled.

"It has been a disaster for the state of Maryland, a total, unmitigated disaster," Miller said of racing's course over the past decade.

But how would Miller mitigate the disaster? The Southern Maryland Democrat said again and again: The answer is slots. He sees electronic gaming as inextricably tied to the health of horse racing. 

As such, Miller said, the greatest help lawmakers could provide is to legalize slots at Rosecroft -- a harness racetrack in Prince George's County built by his family in the 1940s. 

Continue reading "Horse racing: How Miller would mitigate 'disaster'" »

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May 6, 2011

Arundel casino delay to cost state, county $120M

The Cordish Co's decision to abandon plans for a temporary casino will blow as much as a $120 million hole in the budgets next year for the state, Anne Arundel County and horse racing industry, The Sun's Nicole Fuller reports.

The Baltimore-based developer loses out on $59 million in its own profits, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Legislative Services. Company head David Cordish, who blames the delay on litigation by a jilted would-be slots developer, says he will focus on opening the first phase of the permanent structure at Arundel Mills mall by June 2012.  

The legislative agency also detailed how the delay affects others. State law prescribes how all slots revenue is to be split up. Here's the breakdown:

Loss to the state's education trust fund: $87 million (Gov. Martin O'Malley's aides say the figure drops to $70 million because the state won't need to purchase machines next fiscal year.) 
Loss to the horse racing industry: $17 million
Loss to the county: $10 million (though the county budget director says $8.1 million)
Loss to minority and women-owned business development fund: $3 million
Loss to the lottery agency: $4 million

Continue reading "Arundel casino delay to cost state, county $120M" »

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March 28, 2011

Senate lowers tax rate (again) for Rocky Gap

Maryland's Senate tonight gave the final nod to a bill that would drastically lower the tax rate for gaming revenue from a casino at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland in an attempt to gin up interest in the aging site.

The Senate plan would reduce the tax on gaming revenues to 50 percent, well below the 67 percent that the state takes (or will take) at the other four casinos in Maryland. The lower rate would be in effect for 10 years.

The plan also would ease the current ownership rules: A bidder for Rocky Gap would be allowed to own another casino in the state. And, a future owner would be allowed to place slot machines in the lodge, eliminating a current provision that they construct a separate casino.

"We want someone to buy the lodge which is costing us money," explained Sen. George Edwards, a Western Maryland Republican.

The state-funded Rocky Gap Lodge opened in 1998 and includes an 18-hole golf course and conference center. But the lakeside resort has been a drag on the state's finances.

The facility had an operating loss of $3.8 million in fiscal year 2010 and does not generate enough revenue to cover debt payments, according to an analysis by the department of legislative services. 

(Photo credit: Julie Bykowicz)

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March 26, 2011

House OKs slots money for track operation

The House of Delegates today gave initial approval to a governor-backed proposal to allow horse track owners to use slots revenue for day-to-day operating expenses instead of capital improvements.

Gov. Martin O'Malley sought the legislation after brokering a last-minute deal to keep horse racing alive in Maryland this year. Supporters say the bill aims to help the Maryland Jockey Club and Penn National Gaming, new owner of the Rosecroft harness-racing track, maintain full racing schedules amid financial struggles.

But opponents argue the racing industry has wasted state money by suing to block a casino at Arundel Mills Mall. The Jockey Club had sought Anne Arundel County's sole slots license for its Laurel Park race track.

The plan could gain final House approval Monday and remains under consideration in the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee.

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Categories: 2011 legislative session, Slots

March 16, 2011

Some lawmakers bristle at money for Jockey Club

A House of Delegates committee yesterday weighed whether to allow track owners to use slots money to stay afloat -- an idea that has raised eyebrows among some lawmakers as newly released financial statements show the Jockey Club lost more than $25 million in 2008-2009.

The Sun's Hanah Cho reports:

Howard County Del. Frank S. Turner criticized the Jockey Club for not presenting a long-term plan for a viable racing industry in Maryland. "If I had a business losing $14 million and I came to the legislature [for help] but [didn't] have a long-term plan, I have a little problem with that," he said.

Also yesterday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the state "should not be subsidizing racing."

"It should be able to stand on its own, or go by the wayside," the Southern Maryland Democrat said. Miller said discord among the industry players is to blame for some of the financial woes. "A lot of it, owners have brought on themselves because they can't agree to a proper and equitable solution."

Continue reading "Some lawmakers bristle at money for Jockey Club" »

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Categories: 2011 legislative session, Slots

March 15, 2011

Horse racing industry loses millions annually

Pimlico and Laurel race tracks lost more than $25 million in 2008-2009, newly released financial statements show. The revelation comes as Maryland lawmakers look for ways to prop up the flagging but storied horse racing industry.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in an interview this morning that the state "should not be subsidizing racing."

"It should be able to stand on its own, or go by the wayside," the Southern Maryland Democrat said. Miller said discord among the industry players is to blame for some of the financial woes. "A lot of it, owners have brought on themselves because they can't agree to a proper and equitable solution."

The Sun's Hanah Cho writes that "the reports paint an even more dire picture than Jockey Club officials had described." She notes that the Jockey Club had previously asserted that Pimlico -- home of the Triple Crown's Preakness -- has been turning a profit. Financial disclosures for 2010 are due by the end of the month. 

Continue reading "Horse racing industry loses millions annually" »

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Categories: 2011 legislative session, Slots

February 9, 2011

With ruling, panel to seek new slots bidders for city

A judge has cleared the way for the state slots commission to seek proposals for companies to build and manage the casino approved for Baltimore.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John Phillip Miller ruled that a Canadian developer had no claim on the land off of Russell Street that the city selected as a site for the slots parlor.

The Baltimore City Entertainment Group, led by Toronto developer Michael Moldenhauer, had sought $100 million in damages after the city revoked the group’s right to develop the property. The city, which cut ties with Moldenhauer after the state commission rejected his group’s application for a slots license, had asked the judge to end the deal.

Moldenhauer’s group was the only applicant for a the Baltimore slots license.

While Miller did not grant the city's request to dismiss the group’s lawsuit in its entirety, he granted several of the city's motions, and ruled that “the City is, and remains, the only titleholder to the real property.”

The city is “free and clear from any claims by BCEG under its contracts” and “there exists no cloud upon the title of the property,” Miller wrote in his opinion this week.

The Baltimore City Entertainment Group characterized the ruling as a victory, because Miller is allowing the case to proceed to the discovery process.

“We are very pleased with this ruling,” Moldenhauer said in a statement. “We are confident that our breach of contract suit as it goes forward will show that the city needs to let us build our project.”

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Categories: City Hall, Law and Courts, Slots

February 7, 2011

Senators want slots operators to play nice

Irked by what they perceive as Penn National's efforts to prevent the state's largest casino from opening, two senators are seeking legislation to prevent slots license holders from "interfering" with one another.

The legislation, introduced late last week by Democratic Sens. James DeGrange of Anne Arundel County and Edward Kasemeyer of Howard and Baltimore counties, would prohibit any slots licensees from "directly or indirectly interfering with, hindering, obstructing, impeding or taking any action to delay the implementation or establishment of a video lottery facility."

DeGrange was among the lawmakers grumbling about the latest appeal to David Cordish's planned casino at Arundel Mills Mall.

With 4,750 terminals, it is expected to generate more revenue for the state than any of the other four possible sites. Penn National's slots parlor in Perryville and a slots facility at Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore have generated $38.3 million in the few months they've been open, including $10.8 million in January, The Sun's Hanah Cho reported this morning.

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January 27, 2011

Governor to seek horse racing subsidies, oversight

Gov. Martin O'Malley wants state officials to review the financial documents of private horse tracks in exchange for giving track owners access to millions of dollars per year in subsidies if they need the money to operate.

Sen. David Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican, praised the governor's intervention efforts but called the proposal "a Band-Aid on an arterial wound." The administration and lawmakers have wrestled for years with how to save horse racing -- and the jobs and land preservation that accompany the struggling industry.

In legislative briefings today and Wednesday, O'Malley's aides said the forthcoming proposal would look similar to the emergency deal the governor struck at the end of the year, when the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County and Pimlico in Baltimore, said it did not have enough money to pay for a full, 146-day racing calendar this year.

The state gave the Jockey Club, operated by MI Developments and Penn National Gaming, $3.6 million in money generated by the fledgling slot-machine gambling program. It is supposed to be used for track improvements. Instead, it'll be used just to keep the tracks open.

Joseph Bryce, O'Malley's top legislative aide, said the administration is crafting bills that would give track owners ongoing access to slots money for operations -- a proposal that would last "a couple of years."

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Categories: 2011 legislative session, Administration, Slots

January 25, 2011

Table games on the table?

Leaders of the Maryland General Assembly said in interviews today that legislation seeking voter approval of table games such as poker and roulette could gain passage either this year or next. A gambling expansion has long been discussed, even though just two of five planned slots parlors are up and running.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he'd prefer to let the 2008 voter-approved slot-machine program get going before making any changes to it. Ground breaking for what will be the state's largest casino, at Arundel Mills Mall, is scheduled for Thursday. O'Malley, who isn't thrilled that slots are going there instead of Laurel Park race track, is slated to attend.  

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he believed any gaming expansion moves would "take place next year," rather than this year.

"There will be some sort of vetting of this issue over the summer," Busch predicted. "There will be discussions between the Senate leadership, the House leadership and the governor. ... I don't think it goes anywhere unless you have all three people" on board.

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January 12, 2011

W. Md. senator supports Rocky Gap slots proposal

Sen. George Edwards, a Western Maryland Republican, said this morning that he likes what the state slots commission has in mind for Rocky Gap.

"I think we're all on the same song sheet," Edwards said. He said he'd likely introduce a bill "sooner, rather than later" to get the project moving. Rocky Gap is authorized for up to 1,500 slot machines.

State officials and lawmakers have been unsuccessful in their attempts to lure a slots operator to the state-supported Allegany County golf resort, which struggles financially. Yesterday, the slots panel recommended ways to sweeten the deal for would-be Rocky Gap buyers:

Allow the developer to install slots at Rocky Gap without having to build a separate facility; apply the purchase of the resort to the capital investment requirement of $25 million per 500 machines; waive $3 million of the initial licensing fee; and drop the prohibition on owners having a second Maryland casino.

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January 11, 2011

State slots commissioner steps down

Retired judge James H. Taylor is stepping down from the state slots commission this week, the leader of the panel, Donald C. Fry, said today.

Taylor was one of two appointees to the commission by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Miller's other appointee, former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall, stepped down last year. Miller will soon appoint a replacement for Taylor, Fry said.

The slots commission, which is meeting in Annapolis today, received a brief legal update on the Baltimore casino site. The first bidders, the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, have sued over a contract dispute with the city and the state. This morning, The Sun reported on other groups that are lining up for the state's second try at securing a developer for the city site.

Laurel Park is also pursuing a claim that it was wrongly rejected by the slots commission. The sole license for Anne Arundel County was awarded to developer David Cordish for a site at Arundel Mills Mall. Laurel Park's owners submitted a bid, but not the full licensing fee, and was tossed out. A Circuit Court judge is expected to hear arguments in that case later this spring, at attorney general told the slots panel today. 

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January 5, 2011

Angelos wants Rosecroft -- and slots

As Maryland opened its second casino yesterday, at a horse track on the Eastern Shore, word spread about a proposal by Orioles owner Peter Angelos to bring gaming to Rosecroft, a Prince George's County race track he is bidding to purchase.

The Sun's Hanah Cho reported the details of Angelos' plan in this morning's paper:

Under Angelos' proposal, supported by Rosecroft Raceway's owner and the bankruptcy trustee, he would pay $9 million in cash plus another $5 million if slots are permitted in Prince George's County and a casino is operational at the harness-racing track by Dec. 1, 2012. The purchase agreement, outlined in court documents filed this week, needs to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Many uncertainties hang over the proposal. Legalizing slots at any new location requires a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution. And Angelos, a top Baltimore lawyer and avid owner of thoroughbred horses, is prohibited from having a direct ownership stake in a gambling enterprise under Major League Baseball rules. The ownership and management structure under Angelos at Rosecroft was unclear in court documents.

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December 3, 2010

Spending money to make money

Maryland's fiscal wizards were busy this week talking to the rating agencies about an upcoming deal to finance slots machines for two casinos.

If all goes according to plans in early January the state will borrow about $41.6 million to buy 1,825 machines for the the new Hollywood Casino Perryville and the Ocean Downs gaming house expected to open later this month. The price tag does not include the maintenance contracts or costs of leasing some additional machines.

Comptroller Peter Franchot and others have questioned the price the state attached to the machines. In response the state's Lottery Commission asked two outside industry analysts to evaluate the costs. Neither was overly alarmed by the costs, though their evaluations did not include millions in maintenance contracts.

The money that the state is borrowing must be paid back within five years, a time period that matches the useful life of the machines (most of the state's debt is repaid over 15 years).

Also, in this case, the debt will be repaid from Maryland's anemic general fund. For next year, Gov. Martin O'Malley would have to ask the General Assembly for a $8.3 million chunk to cover the costs.

Naturally, the state hopes to make a significant return on its investment, and revenues from the sole operating casino are exceeding expectations. The latest slots revenue projections from the Department of Legislative Services are as follows:

FY12: $105 million, from revenue at Ocean Downs and Perryville
FY13: $228 million, adds expected revenues from the casino at Arundel Mills
FY14: $448 million, adds expected revenues from a casino in Baltimore
FY15: $491 million
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November 15, 2010

Slots commission to hear about temp Arundel site

The panel that issues licenses for slot-machine parlors anticipates hearing next month from developer David Cordish about a temporary facility he'd like to get up and running in Anne Arundel County.

Don Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission, said this afternoon that Cordish will likely pitch his proposal at the panel's Dec. 13 meeting in Annapolis.

This month, the county's voters approved zoning for a casino at Arundel Mills Mall. A year ago, the commission awarded Cordish a license for 4,750 slots terminals, which would be the largest and most lucrative of the five possible sites in Maryland.

At the commission meeting this afternoon, Fry expressed an eagerness to get the Arundel gaming location moving. "I hope we're to the point where there are no further delays," he said. The site has "gone through considerable scrutiny."

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November 1, 2010

Jockey Club: Laurel, Pimlico not for sale

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club released a statement this morning to clarify that the company’s properties – including Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park Race Course – are not for sale, following a back-and-forth last week between Chuckas and David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos. The two sides are locked in a bitter battle over Question A, the Anne Arundel County ballot question that will determine the future of what could be the state’s most lucrative slots parlor.

Here’s Chuckas’ statement:

“The Maryland Jockey Club facilities are not for sale. As I stated Friday morning, if Question A is approved, the Bowie Training Center will close, Laurel Park will cease racing activities with live racing in Maryland reduced to 40 days at Pimlico Race Course. These are the facts. Laurel Park will be developed, not sold, according to an existing development plan which includes mixed use commercial and residential. David Cordish knows that. This is just another in a long list of his misrepresentations.”

-Nicole Fuller

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Categories: Slots

October 21, 2010

Another poll shows dead heat on slots

Another new poll on slots shows that likely Anne Arundel County voters are split on their support for a ballot referendum that will determine whether a slots parlor will be built near Arundel Mills mall.

The newly released poll shows 42 percent of county voters said they would vote for the ballot referendum, Question A, while 42 percent said they were would vote against it.

Another 16 percent of likely voters said they were undecided. Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Politics at Anne Arundel Community College, conducted the poll of 415 likely voters from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14.

On Wednesday, Pollster Patrick Gonzales released numbers showing that a slim majority of Anne Arundel County voters favor installing a slots emporium at the Arundel Mills Mall, but the margin is within the sampling error.

The passage of Question A would affirm zoning law passed by the County Council and allow the Cordish Cos. to construct that state’s most lucrative slots parlor. Opponents of Question A have argued the mall is an inappropriate venue for gambling, and would increase traffic and crime around the mall.

The poll also asked voters who they would vote for in the race for county executive. Respondents favored current County Executive John R. Leopold, who is running for re-election, over the Democratic challenger Joanna L. Conti, an Annapolis business executive. Leopold received 59 percent, Conti 37 percent and Michael Shay, the Green Party candidate received 4 percent.

In the governor’s race, the poll also shows county voters favoring Republican Robert L. Ehrlich over Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich received 59 percentage points and O’Malley got 42.

-Nicole Fuller

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Categories: In The Counties, Slots

Cordish touts business support on Arundel slots

With a recent poll a showing an even split in public opinion on slots at Arundel Mills mall, developer David Cordish held a press conference at a Millersville contracting company headquarters Wednesday to showcase support in the business community for his planned casino.

The Cordish Cos. Chairman is asking Anne Arundel County voters to support Question A on the Nov. 2 ballot. If passed, Cordish can proceed with plans to build a 4,750-machine slots parlor and entertainment complex adjacent to the mall.

Cordish, with about 30 county business leaders who support the planned casino, stressed the project would bring 4,000 jobs and millions to the county and state at the gathering outside of Reliable Contracting.

Cordish said he was encouraged by the polling, which "indicated momentum," but added, "We're not going to let up.

Cordish also announced that he has invited business owners to invest in the casino as partners.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Hanover-based Commercial Interiors, an 18-year-old general contracting company, said he supports the project and "hopes to get some work from it."
"This is an important project for Anne Arundel County," Johnson said. "It will put a lot of people to work."

Jerry South, CEO of Annapolis-based Towne Park, said, Gaming in Maryland will happen. Let's get our fair share."

-Nicole Fuller

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Categories: In The Counties, Slots

October 20, 2010

Poll: Arundel voters evenly split on slots at the mall

Pollster Patrick Gonzales released numbers Wednesday morning showing that a slim majority of Anne Arundel County voters favor installing a slots emporium at the Arundel Mills Mall, but the margin is within the sampling error.

The questionnaire found voters want the 4,750-machine casino at the mall by 48 to 45. Eight percent are undecided. (The error margin is +/-3.5 percent.) The casino would be the state's largest and residents, supported by a group that wants to build a casino at the Laurel racetrack, want to stop the project by killing a zoning measure the County Council passed.

The question will only appear on Anne Arundel ballots, but the issue has the feel of a state-wide race because both sides have poured millions into television advertising seen well beyond the county boarders.

The ballot question is extremely difficult to pick through (but is worth reading just for the sake of amusement - or horror depending on one's mindset). It essentially asks if voters are "for" or "against" the zoning plan.

Voting "for" supports the zoning and allows billionaire developer David Cordish to begin constructing a gambling site at the mall. Sun colleague Nicole Fuller reported recently that Cordish, 70, has taken to door-knocking to persuade voters that the casino is a good idea. (Meanwhile, the developer is potentially losing a contract for his gaming venue in Indiana.)

Voting "against" puts the process back to square one and the newly elected council would need to pass a new zoning bill. (Which could, again, trigger a referendum.)

Continue reading "Poll: Arundel voters evenly split on slots at the mall" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:05 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Slots

September 17, 2010

A.G.'s office will work quickly on Cecil slots inquiry

The office of state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said Friday it would work “expeditiously” to provide legal guidance to state regulators inquiring into allegations that Penn National Gaming inappropriately interfered with another company’s plans for a slots casino in Anne Arundel County.

Penn National has approval to open the state’s first slots parlor later this month in Cecil County, but says it might wait for the results of the inquiry before it cuts any ribbons. Penn National co-owns the Maryland Jockey Club, which has financed a campaign against Cordish’s proposed project, in hopes of steering Anne Arundel’s sole slots license to Laurel race track.

“We understand there’s an urgency to this decision so we will try to accommodate it,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.

The request, from Stephen L. Martino, director of the Maryland Lottery, asks the attorney general to issue a ruling on whether Penn National’s actions violate the RFP, and if so, can the lottery commission take action, said Guillory.

Representatives for Penn National have said the inquiry could delay the planned Sept. 30 opening of its 1,500-slots parlor in Perryville, saying they wanted to await the opinion before moving forward, but declined Friday to offer specifics about the timeline of the casino’s opening.

"We're still assessing all of our options," said Karen M. Bailey, a spokeswoman for Penn National.

Continue reading "A.G.'s office will work quickly on Cecil slots inquiry" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:43 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots

September 16, 2010

Second Cordish slots ad hits Laurel Park

The Cordish-Cos.-backed group, “Jobs & Revenue for Anne Arundel County” released its second television advertisement Thursday, in its media blitz for passage of a slots referendum on its slots parlor at Arundel Mills mall on the November ballot.

The ad hits on the theme that Cordish has promoted -- that Laurel Park, whose owners are helping finance the opposition to the project, is not a viable alternative to the Arundel Mills plan. Project opponents are largely fighting based on opposition to the location at a mall. The ad shows a footprint of the building, separate from the mall.

Check out Nicole Fuller's story on how the continuing battle over Arundel Mills could delay the state's planned first slots parlor in Perryville.

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:56 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: In The Counties, Slots

September 8, 2010

Slots Wars: Cordish kicks off Arundel Mills campaign

The battle over whether to build a slots parlor near Arundel Mills Mall is heating up, with a group tied to developer Cordish airing its first pro-slots commercial.

Colleague Nicole Fuller wrote about the ad in this morning's Sun. From the story:

"A narrator lists the windfall that Anne Arundel purportedly would receive from slots — "4,000 new, good-paying jobs … $400 million a year for school construction … $30 million for police, fire and critical county services," backed by images of construction workers and schoolchildren sitting before laptop computers. The 30-second ad features county residents from Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park."

The opposing group, backed by the Maryland Jockey Club -- which wants the county's only casino license for itself -- has been airing television ads for weeks.

Sun business columnist Jay Hancock also blogged about the new Cordish ad.

Nicole has more today on the opening of a new headquarters for the Cordish-backed group in Severna Park, where company president David Cordish proclaimed, “We’re going to win.”

Continue reading "Slots Wars: Cordish kicks off Arundel Mills campaign" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Slots

July 26, 2010

Arundel slots debate could go statewide

The two top gubernatorial candidates have staked out different positions on a seemingly hyper-local issue of whether a casino should be built in the Arundel Mills shopping center, a development likely to inject slots into another Maryland political campaign season.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, made a series of calls to reporters last week to stress his support for a county-wide referendum. Meanwhile Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich was paid to help a Baltimore developer bring the casino to the mall and thinks the venue is an “appropriate” place for a mall, according to a spokesman.

O’Malley’s campaign shop hopes Ehrlich’s client history will anger some of the Northern Anne Arundel Republicans who don't want it to be built near their homes. Ehrlich’s camp says the referendum will remind voters that the O’Malley slots program has still not gotten off the ground.

Meanwhile, surrounding states are doing slots version 2.0, adding table games to draw more visitors to their casinos. Maryland's law does not allow Vegas-style gambling like roulette and blackjack.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:42 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Slots

July 20, 2010

High court: Arundel slots referendum is legal

Just hours after hearing arguments, Maryland's highest court ruled Tuesday that a referendum on whether to allow slots at the Arundel Mills mall can move forward, Baltimore Sun colleague Nicole Fuller reports.

The Court of Appeals issued the ruling after justices asking pointed questions about the reasoning behind a lower court ruling that blocked the referendum.

Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth had ruled last month that the referendum was illegal because the zoning legislation to authorize a subsidiary of the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies to build a billion-dollar casino is part of an appropriation package. According to state law, appropriations — or spending allowances — cannot be decided by voters at the ballot box.

Lawyers for community groups the Maryland Jockey Club, which financed a successful referendum effort to challenge zoning approval for Cordish Cos. to build the state's largest slots casino, appealed the decision to the state's highest court.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has issued a statement supporting "the right for the people of Anne Arundel County to have their voices heard on whether slots should be located at Arundel Mills Shopping Mall."

“I have always preferred that these slots locations be limited to race tracks, but this is a local zoning issue that should be decided by the people of Anne Arundel County, just as Marylanders overwhelmingly approved the slots referendum in 2008," O'Malley said.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:13 PM | | Comments (0)

July 19, 2010

Slots update: State to seek new bidder for Rocky Gap

The state commission that selects the development teams for Maryland's five slot-machine parlors said Monday that it expects this week to release a request for proposals for an available site in Western Maryland.

The developer would be licensed by the end of the year, the slots commission hopes, and could quickly begin building a 1,500-terminal facility at Rocky Gap State Park in Allegany County.

No one put forward a complete application during the first round of slots licensing almost two years ago. This year, the Maryland General Assembly reduced the tax rate for only Rocky Gap in hopes of attracting a bidder.

To speed the selection process, slots commission chairman Donald C. Fry said interested parties would have to submit a $100,000 deposit and background information on the development team members 45 days before the RFP due date in early November.

Continue reading "Slots update: State to seek new bidder for Rocky Gap" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:10 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Slots

June 21, 2010

State looking to buy more slot machines

It’s not on this week’s Board of Public Works agenda – but a spokeswoman from the Maryland Lottery Agency says state gambling officials plan to ask for a second batch of slot machines for Penn National’s Hollywood Casino Perryville when the board meets on Wednesday.

Documents obtained by The Sun show that the agency wants to buy 438 machines from a single vendor: Spielo Manufacturing. The price is set at $15.8 million. If passed, the cost of outfitting the Cecil County parlor with 1,500 slots will be $65.2 million.

The Lottery Agency is sensitive to criticism that it is paying too much for the VLT machines and made a point of showing that roughly one third of the cost of the contract is for maintenance fees over five year years. They calculate the average price of each machine is $23,652. Once the maintenance costs are added, the bill to the state will be $36,227 per machine.

The Board earlier this month approved a $49.4 million contract for 1,062 machines to fill the Cecil County parlor. The award included five different venders -- including 290 machines manufactured by Spielo.

The documents also show that the Lottery Agency will meet the 25 percent minority business requirement for the second Cecil contract. The previous contract included 20 percent minority participation, falling short of the 25 percent goal.

The Hollywood Casino is located off I-95 in Cecil County and is set to open in late September.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:31 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Slots

June 9, 2010

Franchot: Slot machine buy a 'windfall' for industry

Maryland’s Board of Public Works this morning approved a nearly $50 million contract to purchase slot machines for the Cecil County casino over the objection of Comptroller Peter Franchot who called the purchase an “incredible windfall” for the gaming industry.

The contract did not appear on the Board’s public agenda and the State Lottery provided paperwork to members yesterday, which also frustrated Franchot who said he did not have enough time to properly analyze it.

“How can we be sure we got the best deal for the taxpayer?” Franchot asked.

The contract allows the state to purchase 1,062 machines for the casino for the casino – though the operator plans to have 1,500 at the site. A second contract for roughly 400 machines for the casino was not ready and will appear before the Board in two weeks, officials said.

The Hollywood Casino Perryville is expected to open in the end of October, though one official testifying before the Board said it could open as early as late September. The casino is set to be the first to open in the state.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:43 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Slots

February 4, 2010

Jockey Club says it can stop Arundel Mills casino

A coalition that includes the Maryland Jockey Club says it has submitted more than enough signatures to send a recent county zoning decision allowing a slot-machine emporium at Arundel Mills Mall to referendum -- meaning that voters might be able to reject it.

The Jockey Club, which partnered with resident activist groups to collect the necessary 18,790 signatures, says it has nearly 24,000. Tomorrow is the due date for at least half the signatures.

Those signatures must be verified by the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections before the zoning measure can be placed on the November ballot.

"Without question, there is overwhelming opposition by Anne Arundel County citizens to placing a casino at Arundel Mills Mall," Rob Annicelli, President of the citizens group Stop Slots at Arundel Mills, said in a Jockey Club news release. "The mall is not the right location for a slots casino and is not in the best interests of the citizens of Anne Arundel County. I would like to thank the volunteers and ask them to continue to collect signatures until the Board of Elections certifies the petition question."

The Jockey Club has been active in trying to stop a 4,750-machine facility planned by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. Along with the bankrupt Magna Entertainment, the club bid on the sole Anne Arundel license, but the application was tossed from the competition because they failed to submit all of the necessary fees.

Horse racing officials have warned putting a casino at the mall would spell financial ruin for Laurel Park race track, which they say needs slot machines to stay viable. Presenting the track as marketable is of critical importance: It is up for sale. The auction has been delayed several times, and it's unclear this afternoon what further effect the petition could have.

David Cordish has already started the permitting process for building on a parking lot near the Arundel Mills food court. He has said that he expects the signature drive to fail.

Developing story. See Nicole Fuller's coverage in tomorrow's Baltimore Sun for more details.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:22 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Slots

January 29, 2010

Blackjack, poker, roulette, craps …

None of the five voter-approved casinos have opened for business in Maryland, but Howard County Del. Frank Turner is already seeking an expansion. He wants the all to have the option of offering table games and has drafted a bill that would put the idea to the voters this fall.

“We have to be competitive with other states,” Turner said when he stopped by The Baltimore Sun’s basement office in the State House this morning. He said neighboring states have already approved table games, making an argument that sounded strikingly similar to one laid out last week by the state’s slots commission.

Also, he said, time is of the essence. Maryland’s gaming rules are detailed in an amendment to the state’s constitution, so any major changes to the program require another amendment which must be passed by voters. Those initiatives can only go on the ballot every two years during a statewide election.

Turner said he’s not the largest gaming fan, but as a member of the House Appropriations Committee he feels duty-bound to come up with ways to enhance revenues. The voters “want more services and no taxes,” he said. “You need a source of revenue.”

Turner said he plans to introduce the bill next week.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller likes the idea. “We haven’t even got the slots issue off the ground yet and we are way behind the curve,” he said in an interview. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are building schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Those are Maryland dollars that we need to keep within the state.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s spokesman Shaun Adamec said the administration “doesn’t have any interest in expanding” gaming. And House Speaker Michael E. Busch has been reluctant to press for gambling measures in the past.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:56 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Slots

January 17, 2010


Michael Cryor -- the Maryland face to the group bidding on a Baltimore slots emporium -- has dropped out.

He told us that he wrote a letter to Canadian home builder Michael Moldenhauer, the head of the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, informing him of the decision. Cryor said: “I wished him well. I severed my tie.”

The Baltimore City Entertainment Group (BCEG) was the sole group bidding to build a casino in Baltimore. They estimated they could earn $500 million a year in gaming revenues by building a slots parlor near the M&T Bank Stadium.

Their first plan was to construct a mirco facility with 500 slots machines on city land, but they quickly pledged to create a larger venue. The group was unable to deliver the necessary fees for the bigger casino and could not convince the state slots commission that their enhanced proposal would be viable. Their bid was rejected in December.

Moldenhauer and the BCEG have appealed the state’s decision. Cryor said in a brief interview that his interest in the slots project was to bring jobs and revenue to cash-strapped Maryland. “A protracted appeals process lengthens that time,” he said. A contentious appeal “is not the relationship I want to have with my city and state.”

*apologies to Lauryn Hill
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:33 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Slots

January 4, 2010

Anti-Arundel slots signature drive begins

The race is on to stop a planned slots emporium at Arundel Mills Mall.

Rob Annicelli, head of an anti-slots coalition in the area, reports today that the county Board of Elections and attorneys have certified a peititon to send a zoning decision allowing the casino to referendum this fall. If 19,000 county residents sign the petition, voters will be able to choose whether to reject the casino site.

The Anne Arundel County Council, after months of debate and delays, approved the zoning Dec. 21.

But the clock is ticking. Slots opponents have little more than a month to collect at least half of the signatures. Annicelli says that if they can meet that goal by Feb. 5, they get another 30 days in which to reach 19,000.

There's another horse in this race.

Assisting the anti-slots residents is the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel County. Magna, the track's owner, unsuccessfully bid for the county's sole slots facility license but was rejected because it didn't pay the required state fees. (The Canadian company is bankrupt and is auctioning Laurel Park and Pimlico racetrack later this week.) Magna has also filed a protest of the state's decision to reject its bid.

Horse racing officials have warned putting a casino at the mall would spell financial ruin for the racetrack, which they say needs slot machines to stay viable.

Annicelli says the residents are mobilized near the mall and the Jockey Club could assist with signatures of southern Anne Arundel residents who are involved in the horse racing industry.

He says the opponents should have a feel for how they're doing late next week and will likely hold signature-gathering events in addition to going door-to-door.

Meanwhile, developer David Cordish, whose Baltimore-based company plans to erect a 4,750-machine slots facility on a parking lot near the food court at Arundel Mills Mall, has already gotten to work. He says he does not anticipate the anti-slots group will succeed in its signature drive and has made initial filings for building permits. The emporium is to be called Maryland Live!, and Cordish says he thinks it could open by late 2011.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:42 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Slots

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."

Continue reading "Plans for slots in Baltimore dashed; jockeying continues elsewhere" »

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

December 16, 2009

In The Sun Today: Slots and port contracts, and more slots

The Board of Public Works had a busy morning. The panel postponed voting on a slots contract with GTECH Corp. and then approved a 50-year lease of Baltimore's port terminal to Ports America. Comptroller Peter Franchot raised questions about the wisdom of the ports deal and about the legality of approving the slots contract before its funding source -- slots machines -- are operational. We had a stories today on the history of corruption allegations against GTECH, and on a possible investor in a proposed Baltimore slots casino. The casino project will be discussed Thursday at a state slots commission meeting.

Oft-investigated GTECH may get Md. slots computer work
Subsidiary of Italian firm could run central operations

Maryland officials are poised to approve a $21.5 million contract to set up the central operating system for the state's slot machine program to a company that has been accused of questionable practices in other states and countries and at one time was connected to a scandal here.

The Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that includes Gov. Martin O'Malley, plans to consider the contract with GTECH Corp. today. The five-year agreement, which could be extended another five years for $17.4 million, is considered vital to launching the slots program.

The company or its employees have faced allegations of bribery and taking kickbacks in cases that date to the 1990s. A background investigation conducted by Maryland lottery staff revealed that "some of GTECH's past actions remain under scrutiny, but it appears that no conclusions have been reached as to any alleged wrongdoing."

Continue reading "In The Sun Today: Slots and port contracts, and more slots" »

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Slots

December 15, 2009

In The Sun Today: Bidders on Maryland tracks and their motives vary widely

A diverse group of investors have emerged in the bidding war for some of the top horse-racing venues in Maryland. Potential motives also are varied -- ranging from a desire to save the hard-hit thoroughbred industry, to raze the tracks for other development, or to position for a possible shot at putting slot machines at the tracks in the future. We'll have to wait and see; the auction is next month.

Cordish, De Francis and sister among 6 bidders for tracks

The Cordish Cos., the prolific Baltimore developer that is trying to bring slot machines to Anne Arundel County, emerged Monday as one of six groups that want to buy Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Preakness from bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp. in an auction next month.

Cordish is one of two groups that have said publicly they are interested in buying the tracks. The winner will play a crucial role in helping to shape the future of racing in Maryland and securing the fate of the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown horse racing event.

Joseph A. De Francis, the former owner of the racetracks, also put in a bid with his sister, Karin De Francis, through their family company Gainesville Associates, in an attempt to regain involvement in racing in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun reported their interest on Friday.

Neither Cordish nor the De Francis family gave details about their bids. An attorney running the auction procedures for Magna said the other bidders declined to have their bids publicly revealed.

"Each of them will be immediately recognizable to the constituents in Maryland," said Michael A. Wildish, managing director of Miller Buckfire & Co. LLC, the New York firm running the auction for Magna.

For the full story, click here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Slots

December 8, 2009

In The Sun Today: Still no slots decision in Anne Arundel

In another dramatic twist in the saga to bring slot machines to Anne Arundel, the county council decided late Monday night to postpone a decision on zoning again. They cited the absence of three members, including Tricia Johnson who was in the emergency room suffering from heart problems. The focus now shifts to who will replace Josh Cohen on the council; he has been sworn in as Annapolis mayor. The new member, to be chosen before the next slots meeting, could cast the deciding vote.

Arundel delays slots decision
Md. grants license but County Council vote is delayed

State officials have granted a long-awaited license for a proposed 4,750-machine slots casino at Arundel Mills mall, but Maryland's premier gambling project still needs local approval that was delayed again on Monday.

The Anne Arundel County Council deferred a decision on a critical step for the initiative - zoning approval - just hours after it cleared an important hurdle. After impassioned testimony Monday night, the council chose unanimously to postpone voting on zoning measures because one member was absent with heart palpitations, another recused himself and a third resigned for a new position.

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. needs both the state license and county authorization for what's expected to be the most lucrative slots site in Maryland.

Arundel officials have debated zoning changes for more than nine months, and have been under increasing pressure from state leaders, business interests and county residents to reach a decision. A crowd of hundreds that packed the Council Chamber groaned when lawmakers settled on a postponement.

For the full story, click here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 9:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Slots

December 7, 2009

Slot-machine casino in Anne Arundel faces key votes tonight

The fate a proposal to build Maryland's largest slot-machine casino hangs in the balance tonight as a state commission meets to decide on licensing and the Anne Arundel County Council meets to discuss zoning. Both approvals are needed for the project to move forward, and as The Sun reported on Sunday, the outcome is anybody's guess:

Arundel outcome on slots in doubt

A proposal to build the state's marquee slots parlor in Anne Arundel County hinges on a few undecided local lawmakers who are facing a lobbying onslaught from powerful political and business interests as well as their constituents as they prepare to cast a long-awaited vote on Monday.

The County Council is expected to finally decide whether to allow a slots casino envisioned by the Baltimore developer the Cordish Cos. near Arundel Mills mall. Alternatively, the council could allow slots at another location near the Laurel Park horse racing track - or reject both proposals.

Hours before the County Council meets, a state slots commission is expected to vote to grant a gambling license for the Cordish project. Some commissioners have indicated that they hope the panel's decision would pressure the County Council to approve the necessary zoning.

But even after nine months of wrestling with the issue, it is unclear how the local battle will end. Three of the seven council members say they aren't sure how they'll vote, and four "yes" votes are needed to move the billion-dollar project forward.

"What will happen Monday night is anybody's guess," said Council President Cathleen M. Vitale, who declined to say how she plans to vote.

For the full story, click here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
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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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