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Foes of Arundel Mills slots say they have signatures to force November vote


Opponents of a proposed slots casino at Arundel Mills mall said Thursday that they have collected enough signatures to force a public vote on whether zoning for the facility should be allowed.

A coalition of anti-slots activists and horse-racing industry representatives said they submitted 23,702 voter signatures to the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections -- more than the 18,790 signatures required to put the measure on the county's November ballot.

The coalition, which utilized paid petition-gatherers, faced a Friday deadline to submit just the first half of the required signatures. The elections board is expected to take several days to verify the signatures.

"Without question, there is overwhelming opposition by Anne Arundel County citizens to placing a casino at Arundel Mills Mall," said Rob Annicelli, president of the group Stop Slots at Arundel Mills. "The mall is not the right location for a slots casino and is not in the best interests of the citizens of Anne Arundel County."

The coalition is seeking to overturn a December decision by the Anne Arundel County Council to allow Cordish Cos. to build a 4,750-machine casino, which would be the largest of five facilities authorized by Maryland voters.

A representative of Cordish said Thursday night that the petition drive was riddled with problems.

"It is our understanding from legal experts in the area of referendum petitions that there were massive irregularities, both legally and procedurally, in this petition drive," Joe Weinberg, a managing partner for the company, said in a statement. "This is common when signatures on a petition are gathered primarily by paid workers that are financially incentivized to produce signatures. Upon review, we are confident the referendum will be struck down as both legally invalid and lacking in the requisite valid signatures."

Annicelli's group has teamed with the Maryland Jockey Club, the operators of Laurel Park, which would prefer the slots license go to the racetrack instead. The state is authorized to award only once license in Anne Arundel, which it has given to Cordish, pending zoning approval.

By John Wagner  |  February 4, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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I'm not normally given to populist rhetoric, but this is a classic case of the people versus the powerful and the people may win out. Anne Arundel County officials teamed up with the Cordish company to ram slots down the throats of residents who live near the mall. When the referendum on casino gambling was on the ballot, there was no references to putting slots at malls, it was all about racetracks. Only after the November 2008 referendum passed did the sleazy coalition appear to put slots at the mall. Should the petition succeed and the county voters overturn the County council's decision to allow a casino at the mall, it would be a victory for the grassroots and a defeat for Big Money gambling interests and the shameless politicians such as John Leopold and Jamie Benoit who tried to sell out county residents.

Congratulations to the slots opponents!

Posted by: RealChoices | February 4, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Let's remember at election time to vote against John Leopold, Jamie Benoit, Ronald Dillon, and those who voted for 82-09 and tried to sell out county residents and put the many people that work in horse racing jobs out of business.

Posted by: mdassistance | February 5, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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