Use Vegas model to improve downtown attractions

November 15, 2010

In recent days, The Baltimore Sun had three articles that should be read together: Proposed changes to slots law to attract a downtown casino ("Changes planned for Md. slots law"), the Greater Baltimore Committee's desire for a new sports arena and Convention Center expansion ("A sports arena at Inner Harbor?"), and the Travel Section's report on Travel + Leisure's survey showing Baltimore a poor destination, especially because of poor hotels and lack of entertainment ("Survey finds Baltimore not too charming").

All of these issues could be addressed by incorporating a slots and table game casino hotel developed with and supporting a new arena and Convention Center expansion. Maryland should learn from Vegas, the most successful convention destination, with many privately financed arenas and performance venues.

David Cordish and the Mills Company see the synergy between having two strong attractions in the same place. The amenities and attractions of downtown would boost the attractiveness and audience for a downtown casino, while the casino could attract more visitors and convention-goers and help finance the arena and Convention Center expansion.

If we play our cards right, the casino might be able to pay to attract the NBA and/or NHL back to Baltimore. And it could help support either a new convention center hotel or subsidize the operation or finance the sale of the city-owned Hilton.

Unfortunately, we missed this opportunity when slots were proposed, and even when slots were passed. It would be a lack of local leadership and vision to miss this opportunity again. This is an opportunity and vision comparable to Charles Center, the Inner Harbor, and the stadiums at Camden Yards. All we need to do is see it and grasp it.

James S. Kelly, Ellicott City

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