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Judge temporarily blocks Baltimore casino construction

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge ordered a halt Monday to construction work on the city's planned casino until a hearing Friday on a lawsuit by Westport residents alleging that the city and state improperly approved an inadequate cleanup of industrial contamination at the site.

Judge Yolanda Tanner issued a temporary restraining against CBAC Gaming, the city and the Maryland Department of the Environment after lawyers for the Westport residents complained that work had begun on the Horseshoe Casino, despite assurances last week from the casino owner's lawyer that it would not engage in any construction activity before the scheduled hearing.

The residents, who filed suit Feb. 20, had requested a restraining order and preliminary injunction last week to bar the gaming company from breaking ground until the court reviews residents' complaints about plans to clean up contamination in the soil and groundwater there. The residents, with backing from a nonprofit group named the Inner Harbor Stewardship Foundation, contend that the state environmental agency, the city and CBAC Gaming colluded to skirt regulations governing the study and cleanup of "highly contaminated" properties near Westport, where the casino and a parking garage are to be built.

Timothy Henderson, a lawyer for the opponents, said they'd been told last week that nothing would happen before Friday's hearing. He said in an email that he learned Monday that "a backhoe, its operators and other construction personnel were engaging in construction."

At the opponents' request, the judge ordered that no further work occur at least until the hearing is over.

Officials from Caesars Entertainment declined to comment.

Baltimore Sun reporter Chris Korman contributed to this article.

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