Slots casino at Arundel Mills is a traffic jam just waiting to happen

The Baltimore Sun

The last time I was at Arundel Mills, I was stuffing hunks of roasted chicken into my fat face and watching knights on horseback joust in front of a roaring crowd while a comely wench kept coming up to my table and saying: "More to drink, sire?"

Oh, do I know how to live or what?

This was last year at Medieval Times, where these feast-and-fighting extravaganzas are held in a replica of an 11th-century castle and tickets are $50.95 for adults, which doesn't exactly sound like a bargain in this economy.

It was a slow night at the mall, but the traffic kept streaming in off Route 100 and I still ended up parking somewhere out in Virginia.

Now there's talk of putting a slots casino at Arundel Mills, and hotels and live entertainment venues, too. And all I can say is: Good luck with that plan.

Has anyone noticed that it's already a little congested out there?

This is a mall-layout on steroids as it is, with all these huge stores and restaurants and movie theaters designed to attract thousands.

You have Medieval Times, which can hold as many as a 1,000 people waving drumsticks in the air and bellowing for their favorite knight to run another knight through with his sword while serfs and wenches serve a four-course banquet that can do major damage to your Visa card.

You have Bass Pro Shops, the outdoor equipment superstore that's spread over 130,000 square feet and is so big it has its own Lures Department, not to mention shelf after shelf devoted solely to - this is absolutely true - bait sprays.

You have Muvico Theaters, with 700 screens or whatever it is now, all done up in some kind of over-the-top faux-Egyptian theme, with a candy counter that's bigger than Lexington Market.

You have the cavernous Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe, which holds every arcade and video game known to man and serves any kind of food you want.

And this is not to mention the 20,000 other stores they have there, your Best Buys and Gap Outlets and Sunglass Huts, your Auntie Anne's Pretzels and Cinnabons and Sbarros.

Does this strike you as a swell place for a slots casino?

And hotels?

And a live entertainment venue?

With a total price tag of around $1 billion?

If they build all that at Arundel Mills, let me make a prediction: You'll have to allow yourself about a year of travel time to get to the place - that's how bad the traffic and congestion will be.

Developer David Cordish, the guy who proposes bringing slots to the mall, says he wants to break ground on the project by the end of the year.

And he says it'll provide 2,000 construction jobs alone, which state officials probably love to hear.

Still, the idea of a slots casino at a busy mall is bizarre. And I can't believe the people who live near Arundel Mills are too thrilled with the prospect of busloads of sweat-suited seniors with rolls of quarters descending in their midst every day while they're taking the kiddies off to school and soccer and ballet classes.

(By the way, that's no knock on seniors. It's just that I spent a day last fall at Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia, and all I saw were seniors. And the seniors were divided into two groups: those who smoked and those who chain-smoked.

(You would have thought it was the '50s and Ike was still the president. I haven't smoked in years. But I felt like firing up a Winston myself, just to fit in.)

Oh, Cordish says his proposed casino would be in a separate building from the mall.

And he told The Baltimore Sun that "adults-only" restrictions at the casino would be strictly enforced, with ID's checked by "pleasant, enormous bouncers," three words that don't normally go together.

But it's still a mall, no matter how you slice it.

You hear the term "destination casino" tossed around a lot, like it would attract visitors from all over the country.

But would shoppers - bound for a day of bargain-hunting at Gymboree Outlet, Wallet World and the Hickory Farms kiosk - tolerate the enormous traffic jams and crowds that a casino might bring?

Would out-of-town gamblers staying on the 15th floor of one of the new hotels be captivated by the exquisite view of a vast parking lot, Dumpsters and winking Best Buy signs?

I don't think so.

It's crazy enough when the Medieval Times show lets out and hundreds of plastic-sword-wielding kids and their parents run into the movie-going crowd and roving gangs of bass fishermen.

I've seen that madness firsthand.

And I'd rather not see it again.

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