- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2011

Maryland officials will meet Tuesday with potential developers of a planned Western Maryland slots casino with the expectation of moving ahead with the project that has long been stalled by a weak economy and a lack of developer interest.

A state commission will hear testimony from the two companies bidding to build a casino at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County, a debt-burdened and state-owned complex for which the commission has unsuccessfully tried since 2009 to find a qualified bidder.

Commission members and developers will tour the site Tuesday and participate in a public hearing

“These are never easy situations, and we’re going to have to take our time to evaluate,” said state slots location commission Chairman Donald C. Fry. “We still have a ways to go, but we’re optimistic that we can make an award by the end of this calendar year.”

Maryland voters chose to legalize slots in a 2008 referendum, but the state has since opened slots facilities at just two of five planned sites. Officials acknowledge that delays have cost the state millions in revenue. And critics argue that the delays have put Maryland further behind surrounding states that have slots programs as well as table games.

The state has opened casinos in Cecil and Worcester counties — with an Anne Arundel County facility to arrive next year — but has not chosen a developer or attracted legitimate interest until this fall for proposed sites at Rocky Gap and in Baltimore.

Officials attributed the lack of bids to the poor economic climate. But Rocky Gap has also been hampered by its remote location and a requirement that the winning bidder also buy the resort.

The commission rejected the one bid it received last year for the Baltimore site — a decision that the bidding developer has since challenged in court. A single bidder, CBAC Gaming LLC, is up for consideration during the current round of bidding and is proposing a 3,750-machine facility.

The group will participate in a site visit and public hearing Monday, Mr. Fry said.

The General Assembly may have helped entice bidders at Rocky Gap when it passed legislation this year decreasing the states share of potential slots revenue at the site from 67 percent to 50 percent. The commission received three bids in September and accepted two for consideration.

Bethesda-based Landow Partners LLC is bidding to set up 500 slots terminals at the lodge, and Evitts Resort LLC — a partnership of companies from Minnesota and Texas — wants to set up 850 machines before expanding to 1,000.