Foes of slots at Arundel Mills get enough signatures

Posted: 7:04 pm Thu, March 11, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

A coalition formed to halt the state’s largest planned slots development near the Arundel Mills mall has succeeded in its campaign to let county voters decide whether to allow the casino to go forward.

According to its Web site, the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections has validated more than the required 18,790 petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot this November. Voters will now decide whether the County Council should have allowed zoning for the slots site planned by Baltimore developer David Cordish.

As of Thursday, 19,054 signatures have been accepted. Several thousand more signatures are still being processed by the election board.

Rob Annicelli, president of the citizens group Stop Slots at Arundel Mills, called the referendum a “daunting task,” but said in a statement he expects several thousand more signatures to be validated by the board.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park, was supported by Stop Slots at Arundel Mills. It also hired Chicago-based Fieldworks Inc. to help collect signatures, and according to a Feb. 19 report, had paid $377,000 to the firm for its services.

Track officials say Cordish’s slots facility would hurt business at Laurel Park, which lies about 13 miles south of the site. The jockey club, whose parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp., is in bankruptcy, submitted a slots license application last year for Anne Arundel County but was disqualified for not including the $28.5 million license fee.

Cordish was awarded the county’s only slots license last year.

Last month, Cordish filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the signatures collected, saying they were done so in a fraudulent manner.

Joseph Weinberg, a managing partner for Cordish Co., said in a statement at the time that irregularities were “common when signatures on a petition are gathered primarily by paid workers that are financially incentivized to produce signatures.”