Slots license for Cecil County nears approval

Maryland's slots commission on Wednesday approved expanding a proposed Cecil County gaming facility from 500 to 1,500 machines and is poised to award the state's second license there later this month.

Penn National Gaming, which would build and run a facility in Perryville, is financially sound and "clearly satisfies the standards" for a Maryland slots parlor operator, said Buddy Roogow, director of the state lottery, which regulates gambling and is conducting background checks on the licensing applicants.

Penn National operates the successful Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia. It is planning a Perryville facility at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 222, about 30 miles south of Delaware Park, a horse racing and gaming venue.

"The location is fascinating," said slots panel member Robert R. Neall at Wednesday's hearing. "It's almost in the geographic center of gaming."

Neall said he believes the site is a "very, very good business location" that will intercept gamblers heading north on I-95 toward Delaware.

Penn National recently expanded its proposal, submitting an extra $6 million licensing fee to the state on Friday. By state law, the group must spend at least $75 million on the new facility.

Consultants hired by the state anticipate the Cecil parlor will employ 650 people and generate about $119 million per year in state and local taxes and fees once fully operational. Penn National has said it could have the site open by next October.

The state lottery also has signed off on the background check of Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which proposed building a 4,750-machine slots parlor near Arundel Mills Mall. The Anne Arundel County Council has not approved a zoning change needed for the project to proceed.

Last month, the slots commission awarded the state's first gaming license to Montgomery County developer William M. Rickman Jr., who plans to build an 800-machine facility near Ocean City. Rickman also owns Delaware Park.

With the background investigations of three of the four would-be slots parlor operators now complete, Roogow said, the state lottery can turn its full attention to Baltimore.

The bidder for that site has promised to expand its bid from 500 to 3,750 machines but has not submitted the additional licensing fees. Roogow said the background checks of Baltimore City Entertainment Group members and affiliates would not be presented to the slots commission before November.

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