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Two groups appeal Caesars casino license

Two groups are formally objecting to the casino license awarded to a Caesars Entertainment affiliate for a planned Baltimore casino. They argue in part that bids were solicited for a basic slots parlor, and bids for the project should be reopened now that the General Assembly has authorized table games such as poker and blackjack.

Baltimore-based Harborwest Partners LLC, which did not bid on the slots-only parlor, and the Canadian-led Baltimore City Entertainment Group, whose application for the casino was rejected in 2009, filed appeals with the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals to the contract awarded to Caesars last month.

Weeks later, the General Assembly voted in a special session to expand gambling in Maryland; the measure goes to voters for approval in November.

"Prior to the award of the license it was a matter of public knowledge that the Maryland Legislature would meet in special session to consider substantial changes to the gaming laws," wrote attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., who represents Harborwest in its appeal. "If the applicable tax rate were reduced and/or table games were authorized Harborwest would submit a proposal far more financially beneficial to the state."

Attorney Dana P. Moore, who represents Baltimore City Entertainment Group, also objected to Caesars' license, alleging shortcomings in the bidding process.

The Maryland attorney general's office has asked the board to dismiss the appeals on the grounds that the companies did not respond to the most recent bidding on the project and therefore have no standing.

Earlier this year, Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge Robert A. Zarnoch wrote that the Baltimore City Entertainment Group — which had appealed a decision by the state gambling commission — was "an unsatisfactory bidder." It was not in the "best interests of the state" to award a license to a company that planned to install only 500 video lottery terminals, he wrote.

The proposed casino will have 3,750 slots on a parcel off Russell Street, south of the city's stadium complex. Organizers plan to operate it under the name Harrah's Baltimore.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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