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Racetrack Continues Fight for Slots License

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Maryland's highest court has shelved a legal appeal to allow the possibility of slot machine gambling at Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel County. But the track's operators have not given up the fight.

Late last week, lawyers for the Laurel Racing Association asserted in a letter to a state site-selection commission that it did not receive "fair and equal treatment" when the commission disqualified its bid in February. The letter was accompanied by a massive request for state documents under Maryland's Public Information Act.

Laurel's bid to operate slots in Anne Arundel was rejected because it was not accompanied by a required initial licensing fee of $28.5 million -- $3 million for every 500 machines proposed at the site.

In the new letter, Laurel's lawyers highlight the commission's current consideration of revised bids by slots applicants for sites in Baltimore and Cecil County. Both applicants have indicated to the commission that they want to operate a larger number of slot machines than initially proposed. In the case of Baltimore, it's quite a few more: the Baltimore City Entertainment Group's proposal has jumped from 500 to 3,750 machines.

At a public hearing last month, lawyers from the Maryland Attorney General's Office advised the commission that it has "broad authority" to consider revised bids, as long as the applicants pay the higher license fees required and adhere to other rules. In the case of the Baltimore bidders, that means coming up with an additional $19.5 million before the commission acts.

Lawyers from Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, who are representing Laurel, argue that the advice is inconsistent with the way the commission treated Laurel and contrary to past instructions the commission issued to all bidders. In short, they say, Laurel was held to a stricter standard.

The letter appears to be laying the groundwork for Laurel's next move. In July, the Maryland Court of Appeals said Laurel's legal action was premature but said it could appeal the award of a slots license to a group known as the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals.

The commission could award a license to operate slots at Arundel Mills Mall, the only active bid in Anne Arundel County, later this fall. If so, look for Laurel to appeal shortly after that.

By John Wagner  |  September 8, 2009; 11:13 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner , Slots  
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