10/20/2009 12:00AM

Md. slots vote delayed until at least December


The Anne Arundel County Council in Maryland will not vote on zoning bills that would allow slots into the county until at least December, further delaying and potentially derailing an already stalled bid to open what could be the state's most expensive gambling parlor.

Council members introduced two competing bills Monday night - one to permit a slots parlor at Arundel Mills mall and another shifting the location to an industrial area in the western part of the county where Laurel Park is located. By law, however, the council cannot vote on either measure until after a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 7.

The decision sets up a clash among the various parties involved in bringing slots to Arundel. The developer bidding to build a 4,750-machine slots parlor at Arundel Mills, Cordish Cos., has signaled it has no interest in a different location. And the state slots commission, which plans to complete the process of licensing slots operators this fall, has said it will not award a license before the proper local zoning is in place.

Magna Entertainment, the company that owns Laurel Park, put in a bid for a slots license in Anne Arundel earlier this year but was disqualified when it did not include a $28.5 million licensing fee. The company, which has lost court appeals of the bid's disqualification, filed for bankruptcy one month after the applications were due in early February.

The bill shifting the location of the casino to the area surrounding Laurel Park was introduced by council chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale. Asked if slots at Laurel Park were still a possibility, Vitale said, "I think when you speak to citizens about what they hoped when they were voting for this referendum is that slots would be at the racetrack."

James Benoit, a council member, criticized the Vitale bill.

"There's only one applicant and the application for Cordish is at Arundel Mills," said Benoit. "And to introduce a bill that excludes that applicant doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, and certainly isn't very fair to the one entity that has complied with state law."