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City Council urges mayor to move ahead on slots

Baltimore City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake asked the Dixon administration yesterday to introduce zoning legislation needed for a gambling parlor and said she is "urging the city to move forward on slots."

Rawlings-Blake made the request in a letter to Baltimore Development Corp. President M.J. "Jay" Brodie, saying that a delay in bringing slots to the city would "disregard the will of the people" after last fall's statewide referendum authorized expanded gambling in Baltimore and four other locations. City officials must approve a slots facility, and Dixon has hinted at recent public appearances that she would walk away from a deal that does not produce enough money to provide a "significant" reduction in property taxes.

Only one bidder submitted a plan this month to build a slots parlor in Baltimore. The proposal fell short of city and state expectations, calling for 500 machines in Baltimore rather than the permitted 3,750. The proposal fueled fears that the bidder, Baltimore City Entertainment Group, would not be able to generate the revenue needed to fund a property tax cut for city residents.

"The mayor has been very clear that her support of slots is tied to the potential to reduce property taxes," First Deputy Mayor Andy Frank said yesterday in an e-mail response to questions, denying that the administration was dragging its feet. "We owe it to the citizens of Baltimore to assess carefully the degree to which the developer's proposal meets the expectations that were set by the city."

Frank noted that he met yesterday with the bidders.

The zoning change Rawlings-Blake seeks needs to be approved by the City Council, where there is no significant opposition to slots.

Rawlings-Blake stressed in her letter that a slots parlor would also provide money for city schools. "In these difficult times," she wrote, "we can't afford to forgo new funding streams."

The Baltimore bid team is led by Michael Moldenhauer, a Toronto-based developer with no previous casino experience. Also on the team is Paul Micucci, a former executive with Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corp., parent company of the Laurel and Pimlico racetracks; LaRian Finney, owner of a Baltimore marketing firm; Paul Shelton, a Baltimore bond attorney; and Kevin Johnson.

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