- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

Further delays are likely on a proposal to put nearly 5,000 slot machines at a popular Anne Arundel shopping mall, after a revised bill authorizing the gambling hall failed to resolve divisions among county council members.

Council Chairman Edward R. Reilly said Wednesday that he expects the bill to be amended to, among other things, alter the number of parking spaces at the gambling complex and address increased traffic flow to the mall.

Passing the amendments would delay a vote scheduled for Monday on the proposal by the seven-member council.

“There’s not a consensus to rush to a vote,” said Mr. Reilly, a Republican. “If any of these amendments are reasonable, I suspect they will pass,” he said.

The amendments would be a response to concerns expressed by residents during a public hearing Tuesday on a measure to tweak county zoning laws to allow a gaming facility near Arundel Mills Mall.

A mix of more than 200 advocates and opponents of the proposal appeared before the council to voice their opinions about the measure. The bill debated Tuesday was a substitute bill introduced last week to address community concerns about an earlier version of the slots bill.

Mr. Reilly said he saw nothing to indicate the board’s two undecided members had reached a decision on the proposal.

“They’re still very undecided,” he said. “I can’t project what the turnout will be, but I would say the legislation as it stands still does not have the four votes to pass.”

Some community members are urging further consideration.

“This bill offers us zero protection, and it gives us no buffer zone. This casino would be right next to our churches, our community centers; its very scary,” said Joseline Castanos, a resident of the village of Dorchester in Hanover and member of Stop Slots at Arundel Mills.

If the council delays the Monday vote, it would be the fourth time the council has done so since the legislation authorizing the gaming hall was proposed in March.

Mr. Reilly said two council members would be absent for the June 15 legislative session, so a vote would not likely occur until at least July.

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. proposed the 200,000 square-foot entertainment complex at the Hanover mall that would include upscale restaurants, a live entertainment venue and a casino with 4,750 slot machines. The casino is the largest of four gaming facilities approved by a state commission in February.

Council Vice Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Republican, said the council has been put in a bad position because most residents thought slot machines would be placed at the nearby Laurel Racetrack, and not at the mall.

“We’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation,” he said.

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