Court of Appeals Approves Referendum on Slots at Md. Mall

By Chris Gordon
|  Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010  |  Updated 7:28 PM EDT
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The highest court in <a title=Maryland is giving Anne Arundel County residents the right to vote on whether there'll be slots at a proposed casino site near Arundel Mills Mall." />

The highest court in Maryland is giving Anne Arundel County residents the right to vote on whether there'll be slots at a proposed casino site near Arundel Mills Mall.

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It is no longer a sure bet that more than 4,500 slots are going to Anne Arundel County.

The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, acted quickly Tuesday approving a voter referendum on slots in Anne Arundel County this November.

The county approved a location in Arundel Mills Mall. Residents who live nearby oppose the plan and, along with the Maryland Jockey Club, collected signatures on a petition to put the question on the ballot.

A citizens group called Stop Slots at Arundel Mills won the favorable decision just hours after a hearing.

"This court has recognized that the referendum is an integral component of the lawmaking power of the people," said Stop Slots lawyer Michael Berman.

Resident Carol White didn't want the casino "because every one of us is going to be impacted by the traffic and a casino does not belong next to a neighborhood."

Gov. Martin O'Malley supported the decision.

"I have always preferred that these slots locations be limited to race tracks, but this is a local zoning issue that should be decided by the people of Anne Arundel County, just as Marylanders overwhelmingly approved the slots referendum in 2008," he said.

Some citizens said Maryland voters approved slots in 2008 assuming they would be located at the racetrack in Laurel.

"I don't want slots at all, but I wouldn't mind them at the racetrack," said Annapolis resident Liz Barrett. "I wouldn't mind them somewhere there already is gambling."

Laurel Park's application for a slots license failed because it didn't deposit the required down payment of $28.5 million with the state by the deadline.

Developer David Cordish got zoning approval to build the casino at Arundel Mills, but his lawyers argued unsuccessfully that voters should no be allowed to challenge that decision.

"Anne Arundel County Council, the elected officials of the council, considered the bill, there was input from citizens, there was a vote, they passed it," said Anthony Herman, who argued on behalf of Cordish.

The referendum could delay building a slots casino, costing the state revenue designated for education and as a subsidy to the ailing horse racing industry, Cordish said.

"The State of Maryland is losing close to $2 million a day in revenue," Cordish said. "It's going out of state. It's a lot of money."


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