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.
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