Md. panel approves slot machine license

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 8:33 PM

A state commission approved a slots commission license for a site in Anne Arundel County on Monday, but the proposal that would be the state's largest slot machine facility still needs local zoning approval.

The state slots commission voted 5-2 to allow the Cordish Co. to put as many as 4,750 machines near Arundel Mills Mall.

Estimates indicate that site alone could gross as much as $500 million a year once the machines are fully implemented, with about $243 million going to the state and about $25 million to the county. If approved by local officials, the site could open in December 2011. The proposal calls for a 215,000 square-foot facility, including a 125,000 square-foot gaming floor.

But the proposal remains up in the air pending a vote by the Anne Arundel County Council, where prospects for approval has run into uncertainty because some have expressed concerns about how the slots parlor could affect quality of life and property values. The council scheduled a hearing Monday evening to consider the proposal, but it was unclear whether a vote would take place.

David Cordish, who attended the commissions vote in Baltimore, told reporters he was on his way to Annapolis in an effort to "put their issues to bed."

"Everywhere we've had a casino, property values have risen," Cordish said. "Security was increased for the neighborhood, but they'll have to see it to believe it, I guess, and we'll prove it to them."

The Anne Arundel site is the third to receive a slot machine license from the state panel. The other two sites, one at a horse racing track near Ocean City and the other near Interstate 95 in Cecil County, did not run into similar opposition from local officials. Developers are working on getting those locations open, perhaps as early as next year.

Donald Fry, the chairman of the state slot machine commission, said if the Anne Arundel County proposal falls apart, the state commission would seek to rebid a slots parlor there, and the commission would have discretion on when to set a deadline for new bids. Fry said consultants hired by the state have indicated the current location is a strong one for the venture to succeed, and that the Cordish Co. has the experience to run it well.

"You certainly would hate to see the state of Maryland turn away this potential," Fry said after the vote, which took place in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the commission has yet to receive a revised proposal for a fourth slot machine site in Baltimore. The commission also hasn't received an additional $19.5 million licensing fee to expand from its initial proposal from developers from 500 machines to 3,750. However, developers have indicated in a letter to the commission that the revised proposal and increased licensing fee would be submitted no later than Dec. 10.

In another development, a slot machine site at Ocean Downs, the horse racing track near Ocean City that already has been granted a license, has run into some glitches that need to be examined relating to the race track building. That apparently will delay its planned Memorial Day opening.

Maryland residents approved a constitutional amendment last year to allow up to 15,000 slot machines in the state of Maryland. But the recession led to a disappointing round of bidding in February from developers who initially chose about half of that number. A bid on a fifth location near Rocky Gap State Park in western Maryland was rejected by the commission after a developer submitted a bid without a licensing fee.