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Mall owners court media as slots vote looms


With the fate of Maryland's largest proposed slots venue hanging in the balance, the owners of Arundel Mills mall conducted a media blitz Monday designed to counter opposition to putting a casino on the property.

"We thought it was appropriate for us to come out and communicate that we didn't make this decision lightly, and we know what we're doing," said Gregg M. Goodman, president of The Mills division of Simon Property Group, which owns the outlet mall in Anne Arundel County. "Obviously we have the most to lose if the project is unsuccessful."

His comments came in one of as many as 10 interviews booked for print and broadcast journalists by Simon publicists. The company has largely maintained its silence as Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. has sought to develop a 4,750-machine casino at the mall.

After months of delay, a divided Anne Arundel Couny Council could vote as early as Dec. 7 on a zoning bill needed to build the facility. The council is also expected to take up an alternative bill that night that would allow slots in other locations in Anne Arundel but not at the mall. Passage of neither is certain.

Cordish's bid is the only proposal pending before a state commission for a slots license in Anne Arundel County, one of five sites authorized by voters last year.

"We've been a little disappointed and frustrated with the process with the Anne Arundel County Council," Goodman said, adding that: "We believe that the council will do the right thing in the end."

Cordish, meanwhile, is not waiting for the council vote to hold a major "career and vendor information expo" for the planned casino. A three-hour session has been scheduled Thursday at the mall's food court.

Details are included on a Web site the company has set up that also allows casino supporters to email the county council.

Homeowners in surrounding neighborhoods have spoken out against the proposed casino, warning it could increase traffic and crime around the mall, fears Cordish and The Mills executives say are misguided. A group called Stop Slots at Arundel Mills continues to lead the charge.

Rob Annicelli, the group's leader, said Monday that Cordish and The Mills are conducting "a PR effort" in what he said was "a last-ditch effort to try and rescue a failing effort."

Annicelli said "playing to the hopes of the uemployed for jobs at this upcoming casino job fair ... is cruel and a thiny veiled attempt to strong arm the county council."

By John Wagner  |  November 16, 2009; 4:43 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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