Anti-slots activists continue fight against casino
Neighborhood activists vowed Tuesday to continue their fight against Maryland's largest planned slots casino, saying they would not be deterred by a judge's ruling last week that derailed a public vote on the Anne Arundel County project.
"We feel confident we're going to prevail on appeal," Rob Annicelli, president of Stop Slots at Arundel Mills, said at an early evening news conference. "This is a tremendous loss for voters."
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ruled Friday that a planned referendum on zoning legislation for the casino was illegal because the zoning bill was part of an appropriation package. Under state law, spending measures cannot be decided upon by voters at the ballot box.
Annicelli's group, which disagrees with that interpretation, is part of a coalition that collected enough signatures to force a countywide vote on the zoning bill, which was approved by the Anne Arundel County Council in December. The majority of funding for the coalition's efforts has been provided by the Maryland Jockey Club, which favors slots at Laurel Park racetrack instead.
Cordish Cos., a Baltimore-based developer seeking to build a 4,750-machine slots casino adjacent to the mall, last week hailed Silkworth's ruling as a victory for taxpayers. About half of the state's slots proceeds are earmarked for education programs.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said he understood the frustrations of the homeowners fighting the casino. In 2008, statewide voters authorized five slots locations, including one in Anne Arundel. The locations were not specified in the measure.
"I don't think most Anne Arundel County residents voted for slots thinking they would be at a mall, and I don't think most Anne Arundel County residents think they should be at a mall, and I don't say I blame them in that conclusion," O'Malley said, reiterating his view that if he "had his druthers," all of the slots sites would have been at race tracks.
O'Malley said he had not read the ruling preventing the zoning measure from going on the November ballot but said that "if local zoning decisions are allowed to go to referendum, I don't know why it wouldn't be" allowed, he said.
June 29, 2010; 8:14 PM ET
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