Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

MJC: Laurel Park Well-Positioned for Slots

The Maryland Jockey Club continues to push for slots at Laurel Park.

Though a state commission ruled its application for a gaming license incomplete, Laurel Park will continue its push for slot machines Dec. 17 by discussing its “advanced status” to construct a slots facility.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel, issued a Dec. 16 release outlining its intentions. It will hold a press conference at Laurel beginning at 11:30 a.m. EST.

The commission handling slots licensing in the state selected a site adjacent the Arundel Mills Mall, which is located in same county as Laurel. The Anne Arundel County Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 21 on zoning changes that would facilitate the slots parlor proposed by Cordish Co.

In the release, the MJC said opponents to slots at the racetrack claim an alternative site could take years to develop should the Arundel Mills Mall project not go forward.

“In reality, Laurel Park will be faster to market than Arundel Mills in generating revenue and jobs,” the release said. “Laurel Park will demonstrate the true facts concerning its advanced status toward obtaining permit approvals, which began in 2003 to allow for the facilities, infrastructure, road network, and utility capacities required for a proposed (slots) venue should Arundel Mills fail to pass and the bidding process is reopened.”

Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, didn’t submit its license fee when it applied for slots at Laurel. The company, however, continues to push for gaming.

The MJC said architect Walter Lynch will present various approvals the racetrack has received since 2003. A list accompanying the release shows they range from environmental impact to road widening to a master plan sketch presented to the county in 2008. About 20 permit approvals are included in the document.

The MJC’s action is latest twist in what has been a very complicated process getting gaming facilities off the ground in Maryland. The owner of Ocean Downs, a harness track on the state’s Eastern Shore, recently told the state construction issues won’t allow a slots parlor to open in late May 2010 as planned, while another site in the mountains of western Maryland received only one bid, and it was disqualified.

The horse racing industry could receive up to $100 million a year when all five facilities are operating. The machines don’t have to be located at tracks for racing to benefit.

The Maryland horse industry generally believes Laurel should have slots, while others have said slots at the Arundel Mills Mall location could end up generating as much or more revenue for racing.