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Posted at 5:20 PM ET, 12/13/2010

Smaller slots casino envisioned first at Arundel Mills

By John Wagner

Thumbnail image for Anne Arundel slots.jpgThe developers of Maryland's largest planned slots casino unveiled a strategy Monday to open a smaller facility late next year at Arundel Mills mall as construction continues on its full-size project.

The plan would allow the Cordish Companies to open Maryland Live! a year ahead of its full-scale casino at the Anne Arundel County mall.

The smaller facility would have 2,000 slot machines and would be housed on the first level of a parking lot next to the site of the permanent casino, which will feature 4,750 machines when it opens in late 2012, a representative of the company told a state panel.

Joseph Weinberg, a vice president at Cordish, told the panel that the "first phase" casino would have the feel of a "completely built out" facility. It would feature a bar and limited food service, he said. The multiple restaurants and live entertainment planned at the full-scale facility would not start operating until the larger version opens.

Donald C. Fry, chairman of the state commission that oversees slots locations, said no formal approval is needed from his panel for construction of the first phase but said Cordish will need multiple permits from the county government.

"We certainly have indicated our desire for this project to move forward as quickly as possible," Fry told reporters. "We want to move these forward as soon as possible and generate revenue for the state of Maryland."

The Anne Arundel casino will probably be the third to open out of five that were authorized by Maryland voters in a 2008 referendum. About half the revenue generated by the facilities is intended to benefit state education programs.

A 1,500-machine casino opened in Perryville, in the northeastern corner of the state, in late September. An 800-machine facility at Ocean Downs racetrack on the Eastern Shore is scheduled to begin operations next month.

Plans for the Arundel Mills mall casino have generated controversy since they were unveiled early last year.

Local zoning legislation needed for the project to succeed was petitioned to the ballot in Anne Arundel County. After a costly campaign that included television ads from both sides, voters approved the measure last month.

Two of Maryland's authorized slots sites remain stalled.

Fry's panel rejected a proposal from a potential developer of a site in downtown Baltimore. That license is likely to be rebid this spring.

A license to operate a site in Western Maryland has not drawn any qualified applicants in two separate rounds of bidding.

By John Wagner  | December 13, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner, Slots  | Tags:  maryland slots; arundel mills mall; cordish cos.  
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