Maryland slots commissioners signaled Thursday that they are prepared to approve a license for a casino near Arundel Mills mall, a project that would be the state's largest gambling venue but has drawn residential opposition.

After a rosy economic assessment of the 4,750-machine casino proposed by Baltimore developer Cordish Cos., commissioners briefly entertained a motion to approve the license before tabling it. Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry cited the absence of two commissioners and said he would schedule a vote soon.

"It's very much in the state's interest that this project move forward and move forward as quickly as possible," Commissioner Robert R. Neall said, noting it would generate needed tax revenue.

The commission is evaluating bids for slots licenses and has approved casinos in Cecil County and near Ocean City. Proposed sites in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County have run into snags, and commissioners had expressed frustration, warning they might have to scrap those applications and re-bid if problems aren't resolved.

Fry said the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, which proposed a 3,750-machine facility near city sports stadiums, has indicated it is working with an investor on additional financing. But he stressed the group has not updated its application for 500 machines or paid licensing fees required for a larger facility.

The biggest hurdle for Cordish has been the divided Anne Arundel County Council, which has yet to approve zoning. State commissioners had indicated they wanted the county to act first, but Fry said the panel plans to move forward now that background investigations and economic analysis has been done.

Joseph Weinberg, a Cordish partner, said he is confident that "after all the posturing," the council will approve zoning. The council is scheduled to consider the issue Dec. 7. "It could not have been a stronger message from the commission that they not only support Arundel Mills but believe it's the linchpin of the gaming industry in the state," he said.

According to an analysis, the project would generate $500 million in revenue annually and lead to the creation of 2,350 jobs at the facility and in the region.

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