Spurned city casino developer alleges reverse discrimination

A Canadian developer whose bid to build a slots casino in Baltimore has been dismissed by the city filed a federal lawsuit against a state gambling commission Tuesday, contending that the newest bidding process discriminates against companies owned by white men.

Michael Moldenhauer's Baltimore City Entertainment Group says that the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission's request for proposals notes that one factor in its selection process is whether companies are minority- or female-owned.

"What BCEG is trying to get is consideration on a level playing field," said the firm's attorney, John F. Dougherty of Kramon & Graham in Baltimore. "Obviously with this … preference program, the playing field is tilted against a bidder like BCEG, which is not a minority business enterprise."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley said the state had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

The company was the sole bidder on the slots project in 2009. The city accepted the proposal but later reversed course after Moldenhauer was turned down for a state slots license.

The state slots commission said he missed deadlines and did not appear to have the financial means to pull the project off. Moldenhauer said he had received a commitment for $50 million from an investment firm just before his license application was denied.

A Baltimore City circuit judge upheld the state board's license denial in June.

The new suit focuses on minority-business preferences. It cites a letter from Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to O'Malley in May that recommends against signing a bill to extend the minority-business participation requirements for slots without doing a study to verify "the need for such a remedy."

The company contends that the state's request for proposals from bidders is "unlawful" and amounts to reverse discrimination.