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Failure to Submit Slots Licensing Fee for Laurel Creates Uncertainty

The Maryland Jockey Club effort to bring slots to Laurel Park racetrack proved chaotic yesterday -- and it is unclear what might happen next. Late last night, Magna Entertainment, the organization's owner, acknowledged it had not submitted a required $28.5 million licensing fee.

With less than 20 minutes remaining before the 2 p.m. deadline to submit bids for the state's five slots venue yesterday, a salt-stained green Ford Expedition pulled up outside the state building in Annapolis where materials were due. Boxes of documents were visible in the vehicle to reporters gathered at the scene.

But rather than unload them, a team of more than a half-dozen lobbyists and company representatives scurried around and placed some seemingly frantic cell phone calls. Two o'clock came and went, and the boxes remained in the Expedition.

A few minutes later, one of the boxes was hustled into the building. State officials indicated that they had accepted the bid, one of six received to operate five authorized slots sites.

But then things got more curious. Last week, the Jocky Club advertised two media briefings on its bid that were supposed to happen yesterday.

The first, scheuled at 2:30 p.m. for television reporters at Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County, was canceled. The second, a 3:30 p.m. conference call for print reporters, was first postponed -- and then never happened.

At 5:50 p.m., the following email arrived from Jockey Club spokesman Mike Gathagan: "We did make a bid for the Anne Arundel license. The corporate office is working on a news release which I will forward as soon as it arrives realizing you are working on deadlines."

Around 10 p.m., reporters received the following update from Gathagan: "It does not appear we will be getting a release today so yours truly is headed home."

Within a half hour, an email alert had been sent out by Magna, alerting reporters of a new news release on its Web site. It said the compay had applied for a slots license, technically through a wholly-owned subsidiary called Laurel Racing Assoc.

And then there was this: "While (Magna) has submitted an application, Laurel Racing did not pay the specified license fee of $28.5 million at this time. (Magna) hopes to be able to work with its partners, the Commission and Anne Arundel County in the very near future to achieve a successful licensing of Laurel Racing and the construction of the Laurel (Slots) Facility."

The commission mentioned is the state panel that will evaluate bids. It is expected to announce this afternoon which bids are in compliance with requirements for consideration.

By Anne Bartlett  |  February 3, 2009; 9:19 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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