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.