10/29/2010 12:28PM

MI Developments states case about casino ballot item


Members of Maryland’s racing industry gathered on Friday at Laurel Park to explain their opposition to a ballot measure on Tuesday that would allow for a casino at a mall near Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County.

The meeting, to which the public was invited, was organized by MI Developments, the owner of Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. The company, which took over the two tracks from its bankrupt subsidiary, Magna Entertainment Corp., earlier this year, has spearheaded opposition to the casino, which has been approved for location in the parking lot of Arundel Mills Mall. The casino is being developed by the Cordish Cos., a high-profile real-estate developer based in Baltimore.

MI Developments and state racing officials have argued that the casino would have a crippling effect on the state’s already beleaguered racing industry, despite provisions in the gambling law that would direct up to $100 million in subsidies for purses and capital improvements from slot-machine gambling to the tracks, regardless of the location or operator.

Tom Chuckas, the president of Laurel and Pimlico, said at the meeting that MI Developments will close Laurel Park and a nearby training facility at Bowie if the ballot measure succeeds.

“Bowie will be closed, Laurel Park will be closed for live racing and turned into an offtrack betting facility, and there will be just 40 days of Thoroughbred racing at Pimlico during the spring,” Chuckas said in a statement distributed after the meeting. “I am not trying to use scare tactics. These are the facts.”

The Cordish Cos. and groups funded by MI Developments have traded lawsuits and accusations since the casino received zoning approval in late 2009. Earlier this year, the opposition groups collected enough signatures to put a measure seeking to overturn the zoning approval on the Tuesday ballot.

Although no polls have been conducted to indicate whether the measure will pass, the vote is expected to be close.

Magna Entertainment Corp. had applied with the Cordish Cos. in early 2009 for the single casino license authorized for Anne Arundel County, but the application did not include a $28.5 million fee required under the law. As a result, Magna’s application was thrown out.