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Arundel slots likely headed to November ballot

Thumbnail image for Anne Arundel slots.jpgThe fate of Maryland's largest planned slots casino appears likely to be decided by Anne Arundel County voters.

An ongoing review of petition signatures by the county's Board of Elections on Thursday yielded a sufficient number to put zoning legislation for the facility on the November ballot.

The Anne Arundel County Council in December approved zoning for the proposed 4,750-machine casino at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover. But a coalition of homeowners and horse-racing interests, who want slots at Laurel Park racetrack instead, have taken advantage of a county law that allows voters a say on bills passed by the council if enough signatures are gathered.

As of Thursday afternoon, the elections board had verified 19,054 signatures, more than the 18,790 required for a public vote. Several thousand additional signatures still await review, and the board must
certify the count before the ballot measure is official.

Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer of the casino, has sued the elections board, alleging "glaring and massive fraud" in the process, an allegation both the board and petition-gatherers deny.

"The referendum was a daunting task, but the clear will of so many citizens in Anne Arundel County has been confirmed today," said Rob Annicelli, president of the citizens group Stop Slots at Arundel Mills. "By the time all the signatures are verified, we expect several thousand more validated signatures."

The unpredictable public vote would be the latest in a series of setbacks for Maryland's slots program, which voters authorized in a statewide referendum in 2008. Nearly 60 percent of Anne Arundel voters supported that ballot measure, but many people thought at the time that slots were likely to go to Laurel.

"I suppose what it means is there's going to be second referendum on top of the referendum we've already had and on top of the other delays in implementing slots," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) told reporters Tuesday.

By John Wagner  |  March 12, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner , Slots  
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