Push for Maryland Slots Vote Gets Boost

Action April 1 has dealt a setback to plans for slot machines near a Maryland mall.

The Arundel County Board of Elections certified April 1 a petition by residents of the Maryland county to have a November referendum on slot machines, and soon after, a top county official ordered a halt to consideration of plans for a slots parlor at the Arundel Mills Mall.

A group of citizens and the Maryland Jockey Club oppose location of a slots parlor at the mall even though a state panel awarded Cordish Cos. a license for the project. The MJC wants slots at Laurel Park; both sites are in Anne Arundel County.

The group was able to get more than 23,000 signatures validated, about 4,000 more than required.

“In response to the official certification by the board of elections, I have directed the County Department of Planning and Zoning to halt consideration of plans filed to build a slots facility at Arundel Mills, pending a decision by the court or the voters,” County Executive John Leopold said in a statement. “I respect the democratic process and hope that in the interest of our citizens, this issue is resolved expeditiously.”

Alan Rifkin, attorney for “Stop Slots at the Mall,” also issued a statement noting there is an “expedited trial date” for allegations of fraud Cordish made against the group. That lawsuit must still be decided; the slots vote will proceed unless the county court rules otherwise.

“A coalition of hundreds of Anne Arundel County citizens, civic organizations, and a prominent local business has worked tirelessly to place the slots zoning ordinance on the ballot,” Rifkin said. “Their fundamental right to hold a referendum will not be stalled by false accusations.”

In a statement, Cordish said it expects to win the court battle, according to a report in the Washington Post.