Arundel Mills casino close to winning nod from state
Members of a Maryland commission signaled Thursday that they are ready to award a license to operate the state's largest slot-machine gambling casino at Arundel Mills mall, citing the hundreds of millions of dollars a year it is projected to generate for the state.
The 4,750-machine facility, proposed by Cordish Cos., still must win zoning approval from the Anne Arundel County Council, which has been divided over the issue for months, before operations could begin.
A motion to award a license was tabled by the state commission Thursday after several members spoke strongly in favor of it. Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry attributed the delay to the absence of two of the seven members and said a vote would be scheduled soon.
Fry and other commission members said they no longer feel compelled to wait for the decision of the Anne Arundel council, which could come early next month. Neighboring homeowners have argued the casino would increase traffic and crime.
"We've gotten to a point where we're ready to make a decision," Fry said.
A consultant for the commission said the casino at the mall will generate more than $500 million a year in revenue, about half of which would be earmarked for state education programs.
"All of my questions have been answered," said Robert R. Neall, a commission member who voiced strong support for the site.
Joe Weinberg, a principle with Cordish who attended the commission meeting, said he was heartened by the proceedings.
"You couldn't have had a stronger message from the location commission," Weinberg said. "There's no room for misinterpreting the statement they made today."
UPDATE: In an interview, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R) said he believed the council would endorse needed zoning once the commission votes to approve the license.
"I'm pleased with the strong statements made by Bobby Neall and Don Fry about the quality of the bid," Leopold said. "That cries out for action in these difficult times."
Meanwhile, Fry said he continued to be disappointed by a lack of progress on a proposed 3,750-machine casino in downtown Baltimore.
In February, a group of investors proposed a 500-machine facility and for months has promised an additional $19.5 million license fee that would allow the commission to consider its expanded plans.
Neither that fee nor the revised plans have been received, Fry said.
"It's certainly very disappointing that we're here ..... and don't have anything yet," Fry said.
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