Laurel Park presents its case for slots

Posted: 2:18 pm Thu, December 17, 2009
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Laurel Park officials laid out their case Thursday that their track is better positioned to get a slots facility up and running than the proposed slots site up the road near Arundel Mills — with or without a slots operator license.

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, disputed the idea that the track is not a viable alternative to the Arundel Mills site. Since 2003, he said, track officials have been working on getting the permits that are required to build a slots facility.

All that’s left is getting a license to operate slots, he said, which could be done within a year if the application process is opened up again.

This week, Jon Cordish, vice president of The Cordish Cos. which is behind the Arundel Mills proposal, told The Daily Record that “any phantom ‘alternative’ to the Mills site would take years longer and a complete re-start” of the proposal process.

Cordish Cos. submitted the only qualified bid to build a slots parlor in Anne Arundel County this February. The jockey club’s application was disqualified because it did not include the required $28.5 million application fee. The club’s parent, Magna Entertainment Corp., which is in bankruptcy, is disputing the issue in court.

A land use attorney for the jockey club also said Cordish’s claim that the company was closer to opening a slots facility than Laurel is false.

“They say they are 5½ months away from the time they [are granted zoning approval] to breaking ground on a facility — that’s unrealistic,” said Harry Blumenthal. “In fact that redefines the definition of impossible.”

Jon Cordish did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Blumenthal and the jockey club said it would take at least three to four years for Cordish to get state, county and especially federal permits to begin building a slots parlor near Arundel Mills. Meanwhile, he said, the jockey cub has spent the last six years obtaining the proper traffic and environmental permits required to accommodate the cars and people a slots facility would bring.

Getting federal approval to build a new off-ramp to Arundel Mills from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway could take two years alone, he said.

“If Laurel were given the opportunity to have slots, Laurel would come [online] much quicker by years than they would come [online] for Arundel Mills,” Blumenthal said.

If the Anne Arundel County Council does not approve zoning for the Cordish site, that could open up the application process again and Laurel Park’s new owner could be eligible to apply. The race track goes up for auction next month as part of Magna’s bankruptcy proceedings. Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore is also up for sale.

The council is set to vote on the issue on Monday.