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Md. Jockey Club spends $377,000 to derail mall casino

Inside casino.jpgThe Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park racetrack, has spent more than $377,000 on efforts to force a public vote on whether a slots casino should be allowed at a competing location in Anne Arundel County.

The Jockey Club is part of a coalition seeking a November vote on a zoning bill that would allow slots at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover. The Anne Arundel County Council approved the zoning in December, and the state has awarded a license to Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. to operate a casino on the mall property.

The Jockey Club outlay, most of it spent on professional signature-gatherers, was reported this month to the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections.

Under Anne Arundel law, citizens can force a public vote on new laws if they gather sufficient signatures from voters. Tallying by the county elections board suggests the coalition -- known as Citizens Against Slots at the Mall -- is on track to collect the required 18,790 signatures by early next month.

The Jockey Club has spent all but $878.50 of the $377,876.87 that was reported by coalition. An anti-slots group reported spending $28.50 and the Villages of Dorchester Community Association, which represents homeowners in the mall area, reported spending $850.

Laurel Park.jpgThe Jockey Club reported spending $267,429.85 on FieldWorks, a Washington-based firm, for "petition signature gathering." Roughly another $100,000 was spent on three firms for legal and professional services.

Laurel Park's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., is trying to sell the track and other Maryland properties in bankruptcy proceedings. The sale of the Maryland properties has been postponed several times and is now scheduled for March 25.

The value of Laurel is expected to increase if there is a chance the track could have slots.

A bid for a slots license by the current owners was disqualified last year because it did not include a required $28.5 million license fee.

Under state law, only one slots casino may operate in Anne Arundel County. If county voters reject zoning for the mall, a state commission could reopen bidding for the slots license, allowing the new track owners to apply.

Heather Ford, the coordinator for the anti-mall coalition, said she was "very pleased by the overwhelmingly positive support of the petition effort."

By John Wagner  |  February 19, 2010; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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Hardly a genuine grass roots effort.
Special interest's AstroTurf at it's best.

Posted by: RealityCheck29 | February 20, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

THe anti-mall group repersents the special interests of a few which are bankrolled by a handful of self-promoting individuals who hope to beome even richer with slots at Laurel. Truly, the term "grass roots" does not apply here.

Posted by: theSburg | February 21, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Not quite theSburg. Stop Slots at Arundel Mills is a grassroots organization, they just are not as rich as Cordish Cos, Simon Corp, or Magna. Of course the Jockey Club has an interest in stopping the mall and will spend money on it. Cordish and Simon probably spent more money trying to get Bill 82-09 passed in the first place.

Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows.

Posted by: Hanover_Resident | February 21, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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