Pa. firm seeks land here for casino

Deal near for option on site off I-95 in Cecil

July 04, 2008|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

A national casino operator from Pennsylvania is close to securing an option to purchase Cecil County property near Interstate 95 for use as a slot machine gambling venue if voters this November approve the devices in Maryland.

The company, Penn National Gaming, would purchase the land only if the ballot referendum passes and if it is awarded the license that is guaranteed to go to a Cecil County site. The other four guaranteed locations would be in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Allegany and Worcester counties.

In the November referendum, voters will decide whether to amend the Maryland Constitution to authorize 15,000 slot machines. Penn National, which owns Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia and several other gambling venues in the United States and Canada, had sought last year to purchase Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County until Maryland lawmakers excluded the track from being eligible for a slots license.

"Yes, we are looking at a potential site in Cecil County should the referendum be approved by voters in November," said Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing. "We're hoping to secure a site prior to the referendum."

The company wants to finalize an option to buy land in Cecil County near I-95 before November in order to inform the public about its plans for a slots venue, he said.

"It would allow us to educate voters on the positive benefits in terms of economic development, job creation, dedicated revenues to the county and the state. Those things are helpful when people go to the polls," Schippers said.

The company, whose intention was first reported in The Washington Post yesterday, would have to compete to win the license. A major landowner in Cecil County, Stewart Associates, has reportedly expressed interest in using land it owns in Perryville for a slots venue.

The Cecil Whig reported last week that Stewart Associates owns "134 acres at I-95 and Route 222 in Perryville and has hired a land planner to deliver a site plan for the property that includes a visitors center, hotel and conference center, retail shops, and an entertainment complex." The Stewart family is considering slots as part of the facility, according to the newspaper.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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