- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) | The company bidding for a slot machine gambling license in Baltimore has gained control of land that would allow it to build a larger casino with better visibility, and a city official expects the company to revise its bid and ask to install more than five times as many machines.

The Baltimore City Entertainment Group (BCEG) was the only company to apply to the state in February for the city’s slots license. It asked for a modest casino with 500 machines but could revise that request. The Maryland Constitution sets a limit of 3,750 slot machines in the city.

The company has acquired the rights to build a casino at Gateway South, an 11-acre vacant lot on Russell Street south of M&T; Bank Stadium, according to BCEG and city officials.

BCEG’s original plans called for a casino nearby on a smaller parcel a block away from Russell Street, a major gateway into downtown that carries traffic from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The city is counting on slots for a huge revenue infusion. The quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. has projected that the city will bring in $20.8 million in rent and tax revenue in the casino’s first year.

Deputy Mayor Andrew Frank said he expected BCEG to revise its bid and propose a casino with the maximum 3,750 machines.

“It’s not just BCEG that may benefit from a location on Russell Street,” Mr. Frank said. “The city does, and the citizens do, because it’s more revenue from the slots casino.”

The city’s Board of Estimates would have to approve the location change, while the authority to approve the slots license rests with a state commission. The commission is expected to begin making decisions this fall.

Gaming consultant Michael E. Cryor, one of the leaders of BCEG, said the deal is a good one for the company and area residents.

“It moves the property farther away from the community, and it provides the gateway to the facility,” he said.

Mr. Cryor estimated that the casino would cost between $212 million and $220 million.

The Gateway South parcel is the former home of Maryland Chemical Co. Inc., which moved to a new location last year. The building was recently demolished.

A team including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ development firm submitted the winning bid for the city-owned site in 2006 with a plan to build a $200 million mixed-use project, including a youth athletic facility.

The site changed hands in a three-way deal under which BCEG would assume all the Gateway South team’s financial responsibilities, BCEG and city officials said.

Maryland law requires any slots parlor in Baltimore to be built on city-owned land within a half-mile of Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

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