Slots fact check

Our view: Ads opposing Arundel Mills slots project play fast and loose with the facts

August 19, 2010

The battle over slots at Arundel Mills Mall has taken to the airwaves, with TV ads by opponents that mislead Anne Arundel County voters on two critical details: first, that slots would be more lucrative if located elsewhere; and second, that rejecting the county zoning plan would lead to the machines' being located at a racetrack instead.

Laurel Park has no standing as an alternate location for slots. Magna Entertainment Corp. had a chance to bid for the Anne Arundel site but failed to post the fee required under law. Should the zoning proposal fail this fall, it's not at all clear what would happen next. Should the license be awarded a second time, there's certainly no guarantee it would go to Laurel Park.

Meanwhile, the revenue generated by the Arundel Mills project, with its proposed 4,750 machines, is expected to far surpass any other slots location in the state. Don't take the word of Cordish Cos.; that's the findings of the state's independent video lottery location commission, which estimates slots will generate about $30 million in tax revenue each year for the county alone.

Opponents' complaints about traffic or locating gambling near a mall are fair game (although, as developer David Cordish pointed out earlier this week in a debate on Baltimore's WYPR, the latter gripe may prove somewhat hypocritical as Magna recently opened an upscale shopping center next to Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Florida).

Reasonable people can differ on the project, but the facts are the facts. The mall attracts more than 14 million visitors a year, and that is bound to bring in more slots patrons then Laurel Park, which has averaged fewer than 3,000 in attendance on live racing days and is no more heir apparent to slots than the fast-food restaurants on nearby Route 1.

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