02/04/2010 12:00AM

Petition objects to Maryland casino


A coalition of groups opposed to the construction of a casino in Anne Arundel County in maryland has submitted a petition with 23,702 signatures to the county's board of elections in an effort to overturn the county's decision late last year to approve zoning for the casino near a mall.

The coalition includes the Maryland Jockey Club, the owner of Laurel Park in Anne Arundel and of Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, and several anti-gambling groups. The MJC joined up with the anti-gambling groups in the petition drive in order to keep alive its chances of getting a casino license at Laurel. Current state law provides for only one license in Anne Arundel.

The Anne Arundel County Council gave zoning approval to a project headed by the Cordish Cos. in December to build a 4,750-slot machine casino at Anne Arundel Mills, a large retail development. The Cordish Cos. had first applied to build the casino in February.

According to the Maryland Jockey Club, the coalition needed to collect 9,395 valid by Feb. 5 and will need 18,790 valid signatures in total in order to ultimately get the zoning approval on the ballot.

"We are confident, that if given the choice, the people of Anne Arundel County will choose a more appropriate location for 4,750 slot machines that will benefit our county, our state, education funding, and the thousands of jobs in the horse racing industry," said Tom Chuckas, the president of the MJC, in a statement.

The MJC's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., filed for bankruptcy last March and is currently scheduled to sell Laurel and Pimlico at auction later this month in order to help pay down hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. Magna had applied for the Anne Arundel license at the same time as the Cordish Cos. last February, but the company failed to include a $28.5 million application fee and was disqualified.