Cordish: Fine Penn National for funding slots opposition

Cordish launches its campaign for referendum on slots at Arundel Mills

August 26, 2010|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

The Cordish Cos. have asked the state to levy substantial fines against Penn National Gaming for its support of efforts to stop a casino at Arundel Mills mall, contending that Penn National's involvement constitutes a breach of the licensing agreement to build its own slots parlor in Cecil County.

In a letter released Thursday by the State Lottery Commission, Stephen P. Anthony, an attorney for Cordish, alleges that under the licensing agreement for its Cecil slots parlor, Penn National should not "interfere" with Cordish's efforts, should "cooperate with any subsequent licensee" and "shall ensure that there is no real or perceived conflict of interest."

While the complaint does not suggest a specific fine, it says the money should compensate the state for the "over $1 million" in revenue it loses each day because of the delay. According to the complaint, Cordish also "loses substantial revenues and incurs significant costs."

The public disclosure of the Aug. 2 complaint came Thursday, the same day the Cordish-backed group pushing for defeat of a November referendum blocking slots at Arundel Mills announced the launch of its campaign committee, called Jobs and Revenue for Anne Arundel County.

Baltimore-based Cordish has been granted a license to build a 4,750-slot machine parlor — which would be the state's largest — but the project has been tied up by legal battles.

The complaint says Penn National is supporting Citizens Against Slots at the Mall, a group that worked to get the ballot referendum and was supported financially by the Maryland Jockey Club, which wants to steer slots to its Laurel Park racetrack.

MI Developments, Inc., the owner of the Jockey Club, signed signed a deal last month with Penn National to co-own and operate the Jockey Club's tracks in a joint venture.

Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National, said the complaint was "completely without merit" and "bizarre."

"This is par for the course for an individual like David Cordish," said Schippers. "It smacks of desperation to try to personally attack us."

In an e-mail, David Cordish, the company president, said, "Penn National's motive for its actions is to protect is existing casino in Charlestown, West Virginia, which will, by Penn National's own public statements, be negatively impacted by the opening of a casino in Anne Arundel County."

Carole Everett, a spokeswoman for the lottery commission, said it hoped to get a response "in a timely manner" before the commission's next meeting in September.

The Jobs and Revenue group is pushing for the passage of Question A on the November ballot in Anne Arundel, which would uphold the project's requisite zoning already approved by the county.

In a statement, the group highlighted its broad range of supporters, "who support the building of a world-class gaming and entertainment facility in the Arundel Mills Commercial District to fund education, public safety and infrastructure needs in Maryland and Anne Arundel County."

The coalition is being financed by Cordish, which lost the legal battle against the ballot question before the state's highest court.

David Jones, a spokesman for No Slots at the Mall, said, "I applaud the Cordish company for exercising its American right to organize and to further their cause … as we have done all along."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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