Foes of slots at Arundel Mills defend TV ads

Opponents of a plan to build what would be the state's largest slots casino at Arundel Mills mall fired back Friday against accusations that the group's television ads contain inaccuracies, saying their goal is "to just get the facts out."

"We stand by our commercials 110 percent," said David Jones, chairman of No Slots at the Mall, which is leading the campaign to defeat Question A, the ballot measure on slots zoning that Anne Arundel voters will decide in November.

Baltimore developer David Cordish, who wants to build the 4,750-slot machine casino, told reporters at his office Tuesday that the opposition group is running TV ads full of "misrepresentations and lies." For example, Cordish said, the casino will be a free-standing building adjacent to the mall, not inside the mall as some ads have suggested.

"When you show little children inside the casino when you know it's illegal, you've crossed the line," said Cordish, referring to an opposition-funded commercial showing a little girl holding shopping bags near slot machines. Cordish said that kind of imagery unfairly sways public opinion, and that no one under 21 would be allowed in the casino as dictated by state law.

Rob Annicelli, a member of the anti-slots group's board, said Cordish's plans call for the casino to be built "a mere 30 feet" from the mall. "To claim that it's not at or integral to the mall is just bogus," Annicelli said.

Cordish could not be reached for comment Friday.

Campaign finance reports for No Slots at the Mall and Cordish's group, Jobs & Revenue for Anne Arundel County, were due to be filed with the state Board of Elections by midnight Friday. While the forms should be publicly accessible by next week, both groups declined to release their campaign finance reports to news media on Friday.

The slots opponents praised a legal opinion by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler this week that said Penn National Gaming has a First Amendment right to participate in the anti-slots campaign in Anne Arundel, even though it owns a casino in Cecil County. The Maryland Jockey Club has helped finance No Slots at the Mall in hopes of steering slots to the Laurel Park racetrack.

Penn National owns a substantial stake in the Jockey Club, and Cordish had asked the state Lottery Commission to levy a "substantial fine" against Penn National for interfering in the campaign, arguing that slots license holders are prohibited from negatively influencing another licensee. The Lottery Commission had asked the attorney general's office for legal guidance, but it has yet to comment on the opinion.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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