Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, a slots opponent, said he would not work to subvert the intent of his county voters, more than 60 percent of whom supported the referendum Tuesday. But the Republican said it was far from certain that a majority of the seven-member County Council would support a required bill changing the zoning at or near Laurel Park to permit slots.
Councilman Jamie Benoit, who has been leading an anti-slots charge in Anne Arundel, also predicted a close and contentious vote. "And you can believe all the influence and might of the special interests will be exerted upon our council, and we're just going to have to see who has the courage to stand up to it," he said.
In Baltimore yesterday, the city Board of Estimates voted 4 to 1 to pay $4.1 million for a parking lot site the city hopes to lease to developers vying to bring slots to the city. The land, currently used for Ravens football parking, was appraised at $3.7 million, said M. Jay Brodie, the president of the Baltimore Development Corp.
Brodie defended paying the 15 percent premium, saying the city needs to control the land by Feb. 1 to offer it as part of a slots venue. Taking the land by eminent domain could result in a protracted court battle with a judge and jury deciding the price, Brodie said.
Now that it owns the land, the city's next step is to present state lottery officials with Baltimore's expectations of the type of development and how much rent it will expect from a gambling operator, said Deputy Mayor Andrew Frank. The lottery will include that information in solicitations for bidders in December.
Karmel, the Harford Community College professor, said the biggest hurdle to getting the casinos built quickly may be a dearth of capital needed to fund the huge investments required of casino operators under the law. But he also said that the Maryland smaller-scale casinos might have an easier time getting financing than bigger developments in Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas that have been put on hold recently.
Local developer David S. Cordish said yesterday that the wintry economic climate hasn't cooled his company's interest in the slots licenses targeted for Baltimore, Laurel and Cecil County. By law, a gambling operator may only win one of the licenses, but it can bid on several.
"Current economic conditions have not affected our interest in Maryland slots, nor our ability to proceed," said Cordish, whose multibillion-dollar conglomerate has built Hard Rock-themed hotels and casinos in Florida.
Baltimore Sun reporters Annie Linskey and Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.