- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | Four developers have submitted floor plans and other new details bolstering their bids to build four slot machine parlors in Maryland, and state officials said Tuesday that the supplemental proposals appear to comply with state regulations.

Robert Howells, procurement officer for the Maryland Lottery Agency, told a state commission in charge of granting slot machine licenses that the new details are “quite voluminous with architectural renderings and floor plans.”

“So there’s some bulk and some volume there to go through, but based on our preliminary review it appears that all four of the applicants are in compliance with the submission for their supplements,” Mr. Howells said.

Initial bids submitted in February were a disappointment to state officials hoping to generate additional revenue in tough budget times. The national recession and a credit crunch created a difficult climate for businesses to bid on the licenses.

Of a possible 15,000 slot machines at five locations, developers only bid on 6,500 machines at four spots, including Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties as well as the city of Baltimore.

Also, only the Anne Arundel County site received two competing bids, one of which was later rejected after the Laurel Racing Association failed to put up the required $28.5 million licensing fee.

Laurel Racing is appealing to Maryland’s highest court in an effort to get its bid reinstated. Oral arguments have been scheduled for June 9.

A proposal by New York-based Empire Resorts to put 750 machines in Allegany County also was rejected for lack of a $4.5 million upfront licensing fee.

Members of the state’s Video Lottery Facility Location Commission could open up the bidding again for the Allegany County site or any of the four other ones, if they end up getting rejected.

“That’s still an option that we would have later on, but while we have pending bids before us we will be evaluating those based upon what we have there to see if it meets the criteria or not,” said Donald Fry, the commission’s chairman.

Michael French, a consultant from PricewaterhouseCoopers who has been hired by the state, told the commission there “might be a renewed interest” in bidding on slot machine sites later, once the recession begins to ease.

The earliest the commission is likely to grant a license is this fall.

The four bids under consideration are:

• The Cordish Co., which put in a bid for the maximum 4,750 slot machines - the highest number of all five sites - at Arundel Mills Mall in Anne Arundel County.

• The Baltimore City Entertainment Group, which wants to put 500 machines in the city, with the possibility of increasing that to 3,750.

• William Rickman, owner of the Ocean Downs race track near Ocean City, who has bid for 800 slot machines at the track, with a possible expansion to 1,500.

• Penn National Gaming Inc., which seeks 500 machines in Perryville, at Interstate 95 and Route 222, with the option to expand to 1,500 machines.

The Maryland State Police already has begun required criminal background checks on the four companies.

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