After a two-year wait Marylanders will finally start to get the gaming terminals they overwhelmingly voted for in 2008.
On Sept. 30, Perryville in Cecil County will launch with 1,500 machines in a new facility, according to Donald Fry, chair of the Video Lottery Facilities Location Commission that has responsibility for determining the location and operator of “slots” facilities in Maryland.
Following Perryville, Ocean Downs will open in December with 800 machines.
The release of a new request for proposals was recently approved for Rocky Gap State Park in Allegany County, according to Rachel Hise, staff to the Locations Commission. This will restart the search for a team to develop the 1,500-machine site.
The 4,500 machine site in Arundel Mills could open within 18 months, since the state’s highest court’s July 21 decision legitimizing the proposed November referendum.
As for the projected Baltimore City site, the Baltimore City Entertainment Group proposal was rejected due to missed deadlines for plan updates and fees, according to Fry. Maryland law requires a $3 million licensing fee and $25 million in construction costs for every 500 machines be paid up front at the time of a bid.?
In the meantime, in an attempt to get the ball rolling again, and to be able to consider other slots bidders, the city asked the court to uphold its right to cancel the land deal with BCEG, according to the Mayor’s spokesman, Ryan O’Doherty. “We are not aware of any specific potential bidders, but we believe that the economic environment has improved and that there is more interest,” O’Doherty said.
Fry did say a request for proposal would be submitted following the impending Board of Contract Appeals decision.
Once the remaining legal issues are satisfied, the work can begin, according to Mike Cryor, Baltimore businessman and community activist. “Taking into consideration the time it takes to respond to the request for proposals, the granting of the license and building of the building, Baltimore will have slots in the not too distant future,” said Cryor, also former chairman of the state Democratic Party.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said, adding that slots is an instrument the city and state need.
But time is not the only concern in the African-American community.
“Legislation was passed to create the largest economic development enhancement in the history of the state, billions of dollars will be generated,” said Arnold Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association. “And that legislation was intended to include Blacks as owners.”
He said he is incensed that in a majority Black jurisdiction like Baltimore, “where 70 percent of the patronage will be Black, how is it that there is no concerted effort to have Black ownership?”
Jolivet said it seems every time there’s a major infusion of money in the community, Blacks seem to be left out. “It seems planned that way. It couldn’t just happen like that all the time. It seems to be an organized, concerted and contrived conspiracy to exclude Black people from this lottery.”
Jolivet and others are preparing to do something about it. “If the Baltimore franchise is awarded to someone other than a minority, a Black minority, we have plans to file suit,” he said. “We’re prepared to fight it in court.”
Jolivet said he finds it curious that even Black legislators seem to misunderstand. Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. he said, “If we’re going to be free and equal, we‘re going to have to be a part of the economic structure.”