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a casino gaming blog

Big Slots ‘Win’ in Maryland

Posted by jkarmel on June 2, 2010

[Originally published on GA on November 5, 2008]

Maryland voters made their point decisively yesterday, passing the VLT referendum by 59-41%. Support for the amendment was clear across the state, including in the Ocean City area, which had been the epicenter for opposition.

The result was no surprise, as polling has shown popular support for slots in Maryland since the subject first drew political scrutiny over a decade ago. My prediction (55% for, 45% against) was off by just a few points, though I knew that opponents had closed the gap some since the Washington Post’s last poll. Now is where it gets really interesting, as gaming firms begin the process leading to the opening of Maryland casinos, projected by GA for 18 months to 30 months from this date: approximately April 2010 – April 2011.

What’s next? The following is GA’s brief analysis of what’s to come over the next few months as gaming comes to Maryland:

* VLT commission: according to the Maryland legislation, the MD legislature will set up a commission with appointments from the Governor (3), state Senate president (2) and speaker of the state House of Delegates (2). I’ll speculate that this won’t take place until January, at least, when the legislature opens its 2009 session.

* License bidding: this is going to be fun. Of the five licenses, the spotlight will clearly be on the three along the extremely lucrative I-95 corridor: in Laurel, in Baltimore and in Cecil County. While Magna Entertainment clearly has an inside track for the biggest facility (Laurel- 4,750), the license is not yet a done deal for Magna & the Maryland Jockey Club despite the company’s $2 million contribution to the pro-slots effort. Other firms may see a great opportunity for a facility that could bring in $600-700 million in gross revenues. Baltimore is even more wide open. To date, the Cordish Company has expressed interest, but other major players may get in, including a group led by wealthy lawyer and Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Along with a few associates, Angelos contributed lots of money towards the end for the pro-slots effort. For Cecil, Penn National is more advanced with an option to some prime property in Perryville, MD for a facility. PN Gaming also has an impact study underway and plans for another of its ‘Hollywood’ casinos already in place. However, Cordish has also expressed interest in the Cecil license and may be in a very good competitive position, as may also be the case with the Angelos group.

* Legal action and/or zoning plays by the anti- side: This may still occur as more zealous slots opposition forces may just not be ready to concede defeat. They already employed the courts in trying to thwart the referendum. They may keep going with local legal challenges to new properties similar to Philadelphia casino opponents who have managed to delay that city’s casinos for two years.

* OK — this is just a start– GA will have much more on this in coming days, weeks, months….

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