SBD/Issue 71/Facilities & Venues

Cordish Moving Ahead With Maryland Casinos Sans Laurel Park

David Cordish "Not Worried At All" About
Opposition To Proposed Casino Development
Baltimore-based developer Cordish Co. Chair David Cordish Tuesday said that he filed paperwork to "begin the permitting process" for a 4,750-machine slots casino at Arundel Mills Mall in Maryland and "plans to start construction by the fall with the hope of opening a year later," according to Bykowicz & Smitherman of the Baltimore SUN. Cordish said that he is "'not worried at all' about a coalition that has organized to block" the casino development. Bykowicz & Smitherman note nearby residents and horse-racing industry officials, who are "racing a against a 45-day deadline that began when the county executive signed" zoning approval for the slots facility into law Tuesday, have "vowed to fight him in court and, by amassing signatures, to overturn the zoning approval." The Maryland Jockey Club (MJC), which operates Laurel Park, said that it "will provide financial backing and manpower to support the county ballot drive." MJC officials warned that putting a casino at the mall "would spell financial ruin" for Laurel Park, which they claim "needs slot machines to stay viable." But Cordish expressed "confidence in his bid to buy" Laurel and Pimlico Race Course and indicated that he "would work to reinvigorate that flagging industry, in part with profits from his Arundel Mills casino" (Baltimore SUN, 12/23). DAILY RACING FORM's Matt Hegarty noted Laurel's push to "get the zoning approval overturned is wrapped up in" Magna Entertainment Corp.'s "attempts to sell both Laurel and Pimlico." But an official involved in MEC's bankruptcy reorganization Tuesday said that the "recent developments surrounding Maryland slot machines would not have an impact on the auction schedule" (DRF.com, 12/22).

DEATHBLOW TO LAUREL? In DC, Andrew Beyer notes the zoning approval for the slots facility "signified that Laurel Park won't get slots," and its "consequences seem clear." Beyer: "Laurel will not survive as a venue for live horse racing. Year-round racing -- or anything close to it -- will be finished in the state. The sport will be reduced to a relatively short season at Pimlico, which will survive only because of the profitability of the Preakness." Laurel "desperately needed slots because its horse racing business is no longer viable." Laurel's facilities have "deteriorated badly, giving fans little reason to go to the track when they can watch and bet races from home." Beyer writes the "vision of Maryland racing with a short, high-quality meeting at Pimlico, a healthy Preakness and a decent simulcast facility in Laurel is as much as any realist can hope for" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/23).

MORE HELPFUL THAN HURTFUL: A Baltimore SUN editorial states though the horse racing industry has "convinced itself otherwise, it stands to be a major beneficiary" of the slots facility. The industry was "singled out among all other industries and causes in the state to receive a share of the state's slot machine gambling revenue for purse enhancements, horse-breeding funds and capital improvements for the tracks." The industry's share is 9.5% of the "gross proceeds from slots -- that's more than local governments are getting -- up to" $140M a year. With "what could be one of the most lucrative slots locations in the nation, Arundel Mills stands to give the industry" nearly $50M a year. The "real threat to horse racing" and Anne Arundel County "at this point is the effort by neighbors of the mall to petition the council's zoning vote to a referendum." The editorial: "Anyone who's serious about helping horse racing ... has got to look at the odds and conclude that opposing the petition is the best bet" (Baltimore SUN, 12/23).

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