Temporary Arundel Mills slots facility to open late next year

Cordish proposal includes opening an interim casino in a garage

  • David Cordish
David Cordish (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore…)
December 14, 2010|By Annie Linskey and Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

Developer David Cordish plans to install 2,000 slot machines on the ground floor of a proposed parking garage while the adjacent Arundel Mills mall casino that would be Maryland's largest is under construction next year.

A Cordish representative unveiled the idea Monday, with the garage-based parlor replacing a previous idea to house the first batch of machines in a fabric-sided temporary building. Cordish and state officials want a short-term home for mall slots to prime the flow of tax revenue as the $1 billion casino project — approved by county voters through a referendum last month — gets under way.

Joseph Weinberg, president of development at Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., noted that while the garage parlor would contain fewer than half of the 4,750 slot machines authorized for the mall project, it would still be the largest gambling house in the state when it opens. The projected unveiling of the temporary facility is late 2011, he said, with the entire project completed a year after that.

The garage parlor "will be a first-class presentation," Weinberg said in an e-mail to The Baltimore Sun, and will allow for a "more seamless transition" to the permanent building.

"We did this exact approach in Florida," he said, referring to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino built by Cordish near Fort Lauderdale, "and it worked extremely well."

The temporary Arundel facility would include a bar and a buffet, but the more anticipated attractions such as the Cheesecake Factory, a Rams Head-brand live music venue and a Bobby Flay restaurant would wait for the permanent casino. Gamblers would park on the upper levels of the proposed six-to-eight story garage.

After Weinberg briefed members of the state's Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission on the plan, chairman Donald C. Fry gave the idea a nod, adding that he wants the casino to open "as expeditiously as possible." The commission did not have to vote on the proposal.

Many had expected that Cordish would build a short-term facility similar to the tent-like structure he used for his Indiana Live! Casino. That building was completed in fewer than five months, and the permanent casino opened within the year.

But members of the slots commission said Monday they were not convinced that a fabric-sided structure would be appealing — even if it took less time to build. "I don't think the tent facility would fly here," said D. Bruce Poole, a commission member. "They are going to start with a true building instead of a tent."

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, also sounded upbeat about the Cordish proposal. "It could be a nice facility that will attract more customers," he said. "It sounds like a substantial structure."

Parking concerns

County officials are processing Cordish's permit application for the permanent casino, which is on track for approval by early next year. Cordish has not yet submitted an application for the temporary casino.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said the county's Office of Inspections and Permits will treat Cordish "like any other applicant" and ensure that any potential impact to neighboring communities is mitigated.

"I'm interested in seeing this process move forward consistent with all the requirements of any other applicants," said Leopold, a Republican. "The county and state both need the job creation and the revenue."

Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones, a longtime opponent of the Cordish casino, said it was difficult for him to imagine a casino inside a parking garage without seeing Cordish's plans.

"When I think of a parking garage, I just sort of think of a concrete structure," said Jones, whose council district includes the mall. "I just can't quite conceptualize what they're presenting."

Jones said he's concerned about how the construction of the parking garage would affect current parking at the mall.

"I'm confident that the county is going to take a strong look to make sure there's adequate parking and the traffic system is appropriate," said Jones, a Democrat. "It will be a delicate balance because certainly the county is looking forward to the revenue they'll be providing."

Cordish has proposed a garage accommodating 4,380 cars attached to the main casino, with a smaller valet parking lot for about 129 cars. The entire project is to be built in a parking lot area of Arundel Mills, one of the largest malls in the region, located midway between Baltimore and Washington.

When voters approved the five gaming locations in Maryland, analysts had projected that the Anne Arundel casino would open in February 2011 and become the most lucrative in the state. But many officials were surprised when Cordish submitted a bid for a license to put the casino at the mall; racing interests and others thought it was heading for the Laurel Park race course.

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