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Panel Seeking Requests For Baltimore Slots Parlor

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A new request for proposals from developers to build a slot machine parlor in Baltimore got approval Tuesday from a state commission.

The Video Lottery Facility Location Commission has been working with the city to make any proposals contingent on meeting a set of minimum requirements that city officials approve.

Commission Chairman Don Fry said the city’s Board of Estimates was scheduled to consider a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday. The document will spell out terms and conditions the city expects on matters such as a ground lease, taxes and what parcels of land would be available for such a place.

“We’re trying to streamline things and trying to make it very clear so there’s no confusion,” Fry said.

The Baltimore site would be the state’s second largest slots house, with up to 3,750 machines. A developer would have to pay a $3 million licensing fee to the state for every 500 machines.

Bids from interested parties are expected in late July. Fry said at least four companies or groups have expressed interest in a Baltimore site.

In 2009, the commission rejected a proposal for a slot machine parlor in the city by the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, which is appealing the decision in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

John Dougherty, an attorney for the group, urged the commission not to approve a new request for proposals while the appeals process continues. The bid was rejected after the group repeatedly missed deadlines to submit a revised proposal and an additional license fee to expand its initial proposal from 500 to 3,750 slot machines.

The group could bid again, but Dougherty said it was too soon to say if it would.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Dougherty said.

Five areas are approved to have slot machines in Maryland. Two already have opened — in Cecil County and on the Eastern Shore near Ocean City. The state’s largest slot machine casino in Anne Arundel County is scheduled to open next year, although a temporary facility could open late this year.

Another site at Rocky Gap State Park in western Maryland has failed to attract a bidder, but lawmakers passed legislation to significantly lower the tax on proceeds there in hopes of attracting a developer.

Fry said he’s hopeful the commission could approve a request for proposals for Rocky Gap in June. He also said he’s hopeful licenses could be awarded to Baltimore and Rocky Gap by the end of the calendar year.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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