The process of selecting a new developer for the city's slots casino could begin as soon as February, now that a decision by the state Board of Contract Appeals has cleared the way for a speedy resolution to a legal battle over a previous bid for the site, officials said Thursday.
"I think we are in a position where we can rebid in the very near future," said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the state slots commission.
A city slots parlor, which initially was to open this New Year's Eve, has been tangled by legal challenges. But the knots began to unravel Wednesday, when the state appeals panel upheld the slots commission's decision to discard a bid by the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, headed by Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer.
That decision could hasten the resolution of a lawsuit filed by Moldenhauer, who is challenging the city's revocation of his rights to develop the slots parlor. The property south of M&T Bank Stadium has been vacant since the old Maryland Chemical building was demolished last year.
A judge is scheduled to hear the city's request for summary judgment in the case on Thursday. The city's attorneys have asked the judge to dismiss Moldenhauer's claim, contending that the developer met "none of the critical conditions" to move forward with the deal — in large part because he was denied the state slots license.
A call to Moldenhauer was not immediately returned Thursday.
A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said city officials are confident in their case and hope that the legal challenges would be resolved quickly.
Spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said officials are working closely with the state slots commission and are hopeful that a new request for proposals can be issued as soon as February.
The city has cleared another legal hurdle by ending a developer's claim to a piece of land in the slots parcel, O'Doherty said.
Officials recently issued a letter terminating Cormony Development's rights to exclusive negotiating privileges on a parcel of land off Russell Street, O'Doherty said.
Samuel Polakoff, the local developer who heads Cormony, had long-standing plans to build a "sportsplex" on the site with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as a partner. Officials are in the process of determining whether the development team is due a reimbursement for any expenses on the site.
"The mayor has been very strategic about putting everything in place that we possibly can to get that site in order," O'Doherty said.
City officials hope the slots casino will become the "premier gaming site for the Mid-Atlantic" because of its proximity to the Inner Harbor, sports stadiums and other tourist attractions, O'Doherty said.
Fry said the slots commission would discuss the lawsuit and the city's plan to issue a new request for proposals at a meeting Monday.
"I think that it's the desire of everyone to move ahead as quickly as possible," he said.