Penn National still targeting Sept. 30 date for Cecil slots

Penn National Gaming expects to open Maryland's first slots casino in Cecil County by the end of the month, as officials appeared to be more certain Tuesday that they would not be delayed by a pending ruling from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's office.

Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National, said the company was working to open the 1,500-machine Perryville casino on Sept. 30 — the date the company had publicized.

The company last week said that it might push back the opening as state regulators examine whether the gambling giant inappropriately interfered with another company's efforts to build a casino in Anne Arundel County.

Donald C. Fry, the head of Maryland's slots commission, also said the Cecil casino is on track to open next week. Plans have been made to "coin test" all of the machines, he said, and a trial casino night to benefit charity is planned for this weekend. The commission has been invited Wednesday to tour the Cecil facility, which has been named the Hollywood Casino Perryville.

The State Lottery Commission, a separate regulatory body, conditionally approved Penn National Gaming's license Thursday, but it did not rule on claims by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. that Penn National breached its licensing agreement for the Cecil site. Regulators decided to seek guidance from the state attorney general's office about what to do next.

At that time, a company spokeswoman said Penn National wanted legal clarification to determine whether the company can continue its involvement in a campaign against a November referendum on slots in Arundel. The attorney general's office said it would work quickly on the inquiry.

Penn National has agreed to help own and operate Laurel Park racetrack. The Maryland Jockey Club, the co-owner, has financed an effort to stop a Cordish slots parlor at Arundel Mills mall and steer slots toward Laurel.

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