02/04/2009 1:00AM

Magna tries escrow bid


Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, is willing to put $28.5 million into an escrow account in a Maryland bank to satisfy licensing-fee requirements to bid on a Maryland casino, the company said Wednesday. But the head of the commission that will award the casino licenses said the company's offer did not bring Magna into compliance with the law.

Magna was one of six companies that submitted bids to the Maryland commission on Monday to receive one of five licenses in the state to operate slot machines. However, Magna did not include the licensing fee with its bid.

On Wednesday afternoon, the company said that it had offered to put the money into the escrow account and asked the casino commission to "utilize its discretionary authority to refund the initial license fee" if Magna obtains a slot-machine license but is prevented from opening a casino because of local zoning obstructions.

Don Fry, the head of the commission, said the law governing the bidding process required Magna to have included the funds with its bid.

"The money that was supposed to be paid was supposed to be paid when the proposals were due, and that was Monday at 2 p.m.," Fry said.

Fry reiterated that the commission would consider formally disqualifying Magna's bid next week.