Casino Planned For 5,000

Developers Unveil Design For 2-story Slots Parlor On Russell

August 26, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

The development team hoping to build a casino in Baltimore plans to construct a two-story slots parlor on Russell Street that could accommodate 5,000 gamblers, according to a preliminary design unveiled at a community meeting Tuesday.

The plan calls for construction of a five-story, 2,500-space parking garage, according to members of Baltimore City Entertainment Group, which applied for Baltimore's video lottery terminal license, one of five available statewide. The $50 million garage would be financed through city-issued parking revenue bonds that developers would repay with gambling profits.

The meeting at the nearby Gaslight Square building - a monthly gathering of neighborhood representatives called the Local Development Council whose communities would be affected by the new casino - was the first public hearing since the city allowed developers to move the proposed casino from a more remote parcel to the larger Russell Street location. The move would allow the developers to install 3,750 video lottery machines instead of the 500 they initially proposed and is expected to increase the revenues the city will earn in taxes and ground rent.

But some developers have protested the location switch. They say they were not aware that the more visible parcel was available when they were determining whether to seek a Baltimore license. Owners of the Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel County, who want the bidding process reopened, called the switch "patently unfair."

Kimberly Clark, an executive vice president at Baltimore Development Corp., rebutted those claims and quoted from the request for proposal documents that say the city "reserves the right" to make other land available.

"Nobody's been swindled," Clark said. "There is nothing under the carpet or behind the scenes going on. It is all on the up-and-up."

Clark also addressed concerns about contamination at the casino site, once home to a chemical company. "There is nothing on that site we have not worked with before," Clark said.

Paul Micucci, a principal with Baltimore City Entertainment Group and former executive of Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corp., responded to questions about plans for other attractions such as a live entertainment amphitheater near the casino, saying any other development would be "a few years down the road."

"Our primary business is the casino," he said. "We will not build another entity to draw away from that."

In response to neighborhood concerns that bus traffic at the casino could become overwhelming on days the Ravens play, Micucci noted that the business plan calls for marketing to sports fans on those days rather than bringing in busloads.

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