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Laurel Racing Appeals to Maryland's High Court on Slots

Laurel Racing Association appealed to Maryland's highest court this morning to allow it back into the competition for a slot-machine gambling license despite the company's failure to pay a $28.5 million licensing fee in February.

Michael Berman, a lawyer for Laurel, argued to the Court of Appeals that the state's slots law did not make clear that the fee was refundable for unsuccessful bidders and was therefore an unconstitutional taking of property. The company, which is seeking to bring slots to Laurel Park race track, was one of two applicants for a license in Anne Arundel County, but a state commission dismissed its bid for failure to pay the fee.

A lawyer representing the state countered that the legislative history and the agency administering the slots program made clear that fees were refundable for unsuccessful bidders. The lawyer, Austin C. Schlick from the Attorney General's Office, also said that Laurel had failed to raise its constiutional concerns before bids were due.

Judges on the court expressed bewilderment that the law was not more explicit about refunds but also raised questions about Laurel's preferred remedy: allowing the company to amend its bid and compete for the license. One other bidder, Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, is seeking a slots license in Anne Arundel, at the Arundel Mills Mall. Cordish paid the $28.5 million fee.

Alan M. Rifkin, another lawyer for Laurel, said the company would also be satisfied if the court ordered rebidding to be reopened for all five of the state's slots locations. Schlick asked for a quick resolution, noting that the state commission hopes to start awarding licenses in the fall.


By John Wagner  |  June 9, 2009; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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