Cordish Cos. make case before Arundel delegation

A spokesman for the developer of the Maryland Live Casino received a warm reception from a hometown crowd Thursday morning when he appeared before the Anne Arundel County legislative delegation to warn of grave damage to the Arundel Mills facility if Gov.Martin O'Malley's propoed gambling expansion legislation goes through the General Assembly unchanged.

Cordish Cos.executive Joe Weinberg told county senators and delegates that the developer made its original bid to build its giant slots-only casino based on the assumption that there would be no competition from a rival inPrince George's County.


"We did so based on the constitutional provision that there would be five casinos in the state," he said, noting that the company is paying a nation's highest 67 percent tax rates on its slots revenue. "We made the business decision that we could pay that and build a word-class facility in Anne Arundel County."

Weinberg admitted that the legislature reserved the right to add another casino, but said the Assembly also has the power to raise its tax rate to 95 percent.


"Would that be the right thing to do?" he said.

Weinberg said that with 4,750 slot machines Maryland Live will be the third-largest casino in the country. Another casino slated to open in Baltimore in 2014 will be the 7th largest when it opens in 2014, he said. Both, he said, will have to compete with the nation's fifth-largest in Charles Town, W. Va.

Adding another "mega-casino" in Prince George's with 3,000 slots could harm them all, he said.

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"There is no precedent for the saturation of machines in one small corridor," he said.

Weinberg said the governor's proposed means of compensating Maryland Live for the additional competition, which contemplates a 5 percentage-point adjustment to reflect increased competition, is entirely inadequate. He said that if the state does add a sixth casino, it should compensate the competitors according to a set formula tied to their loss of market share.

Cordish received strong backing from Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, who warned that the "hold harmless" provisions of the governor's bill might protect county revenue but would not protect against a loss of jobs at Maryland Live or other businesses in the county.

"This additional site will be a boa constrictor that will squeeze the life out of Maryland Live," Leopold said.

The two men's testimony was preceded by a briefing from O'Malley's chief legislative office, Joseph C. Bryce, who laid out the terms of a bill that was released just Tuesday night.


Bryce was the target of skeptical questioning from Ane Arundel lawmakers, who were for the most part openly sympathetic with Cordish.

Not present was the county's most prominent member, House SpeakerMichael E. Busch, who is the only member of the delegation considered likely to support the bill.