Slots draw few bidders

February 03, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Disappointed by a low number of bidders interested in operating slot parlors in Maryland, Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller says the state's slot commission should revisit the issue.

That comment came one day after Miller was quoted in The Baltimore Sun saying that some Maryland slots locations, like the one in Allegany County, Md., should be moved to more populous areas. However, Miller denied saying that in an interview Tuesday with The Herald-Mail.

Instead, Miller called the planned site at Rocky Gap an "ideal location" for slots.

A constitutional amendment approved by voters in November legalizes up to 15,000 slot machines at five locations.

Only six bids were received Monday for those locations. The proposals seek a total of 10,550 machines at first, with a total of 13,000 in a second phase.

"The revenues that we estimated probably aren't going to be what they were looking for," said Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, who opposed slots.


Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, opposed slots but said he was surprised by the low number of bids, based on the amount of interest slots received in a pre-bid meeting.

He said the economy is partly to blame. Bidders must pay an upfront fee of $28.5 million, which is tough to come by now that banks are more reluctant to lend, Munson said.

One company failed to include it in its bid for 4,750 slot machines at Laurel Park, a horse-racing track in Anne Arundel County - a matter that will now be reviewed by a state commission.

"I think it has everything to do with the economy," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, a supporter of slots. "Everyone is scaling back. Once times get better, we will see a lot more interest."

Instead of putting a certain number of licenses up for bid at each location, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who opposed slots, said he favored a Republican proposal to auction licenses in a competitive bidding process, avoiding the thousands of leftover licenses available after Monday's bids were opened.

And revenues could be even worse than expected if areas like Charles Town, W.Va., that currently have slots move forward with gaming tables to draw back any business they might have lost to Maryland, Serafini said.

Munson said he doubts anyone from Washington County will travel to Rocky Gap to gamble when they could drive a shorter distance to Charles Town, where there are more gambling options.

"I think the voters in favor of the constitutional amendment wanted to see slots, but the legislature didn't do them any favors by passing what is really becoming a very flawed and unworkable statute," Shank said.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, opposed slots, but said now that the measure has passed, he believes the parlor should stay in Allegany County. He said it would draw crowds and spur tourism in the area.

"Allegany County voters went to the polls with the full idea and understanding that if they voted 'yes' for slots that it was going to be at Rocky Gap," Myers said. "And although I disagree with slots, this particular time I'm in the minority and the voters have spoken."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Slots proposals

Anne Arundel County

o The Cordish Co. put in a bid for the maximum 4,750 slot machines, the highest number of all five sites. Cordish, which has put up the entire $28.5 million in upfront licensing fees, wants to put slots at Arundel Mills Mall.

o Magna Entertainment Corp., has bid for 3,000 machines at the Laurel Park horse racing track through subsidiary Laurel Racing Association. It has not put up any of the $18 million in upfront licensing fees.

Baltimore city

o The Baltimore City Entertainment Group has put in a bid for 500 slot machines, with the possibility of increasing that to 3,750 later.

Worcester County

o William Rickman, owner of the Ocean Downs race track near Ocean City, has submitted a proposal for 800 slot machines at the track, with a possible expansion to 1,500 later.

Cecil County

o Penn National Gaming Inc. has put in a bid for 500 slot machines in Perryville, at Interstate 95 and Route 222. The company could later expand to 1,500 slot machines later.

Allegany County

o Empire Resorts is bidding on 750 slot machines at Rocky Gap State Park, with potential to expand to 1,500. Empire has not posted the $4.5 million in upfront licensing fees.

-- The Associated Press

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