Anne Arundel County Council to Decide on Zoning Change for Arundel Mills Mall Slots Location

An important vote by county officials on a zoning measure needed for the state of Maryland's biggest slot machine establishment could finally take place on December 22nd, 2009 after numerous delays and long debate on a proposal with serious implications for the state's slots plan.

Approval by the Anne Arundel County Council would mean that the location accounts for nearly 1/3 of the possible 15,000 slot machines in Maryland could finally move forward. The council is scheduled to study two zoning measures. One would permit the Cordish Co. to move forward with a plan to install 4,750 slot machines near Arundel Mills Mall.

Another would evaluate possibilities for a slot machine location in Laurel Park, a horse racetrack in the county. The Anne Arundel Council postponed a vote on the issue when only four of its seven members were present to hear testimonies from residents. The Cordish Co. already has received a gaming license from the state commission.

The proposal is the only one in the county that included the required licensing cost, which was $28.5 million for the proposed number of slot machines. If approved by local officials, the location could open to the public in December 2011.

The proposal calls for a 215,000 square-foot gaming facility, including a 125,000 square foot gambling floor. Estimates show that the location alone could gross as much as $500 million annually, with about $243 million going to the state and about $25 million going to the county, which are both facing budget deficits.

Residents near the slots location fear that it may affect the value of their properties. Supporters of the Laurel Park slots location say that slots facility at the mall would affect the track.

But a proposal to place slot machines at Laurel Park by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corporation was dismissed by the state commission earlier this year when the organization failed to submit the required licensing fee.

If the slots deal near the Anne Arundel Mills mall collapses, the state commission could seek to re-bid a slot facility in Anne Arundel County. The commission would have the power on when to set a deadline for the new slots bids.

State officials' hopes that the machines could help Maryland's dismal budget picture have run into a series of problems. The most recent one happened last week when the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location dismissed a proposal by developers for a Baltimore location.

The Baltimore City Entertainment Group repeatedly missed deadlines for a revised slots plan and failed to come up with an additional $19.5 million to improve an initial slots proposal from five hundred machines to 3,850 machines, which would have been the state's second-largest slots location. The Baltimore site will be reopened for new slots bid next year.