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Slots Panel Moves Ahead With Effort At Rocky Gap

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A state commission voted Monday to approve a request for proposals to develop a slot machine casino in western Maryland at Rocky Gap State Park, a site that has had more trouble attracting a developer than four other possible casino locations in the long, recession-battered effort to expand gambling in the state.

Donald Fry, the chairman of the slot machine commission, said he anticipated the request for proposals would be issued by the end of next week. Responses from interested companies would be due mid to late September.

Fry also said he wanted to meet with Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials because DNR is technically the owner of the property. Under the proposed conditions, a casino operator would buy the facility that is within the state park.

“I just want to sit down with them and make sure that we’re all on the same page,” Fry said after the commission’s meeting. “They obviously are an interested party.”

A deal regarding the Rocky Gap site would have to be approved by bondholders who have a secured interest in the property, Fry said. He also said the state’s Board of Public Works would have to approve the deal.

The site near Cumberland has had such difficulty attracting a bidder that lawmakers approved legislation to sweeten the concept of putting slot machines at the facility. It would be the smallest of the state’s casinos, with no more than 1,500 machines.

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation last month to reduce the state’s tax on gambling proceeds to 50 percent from 67 percent in the first 10 years of operation.

In other business, a Maryland lottery official said he believes the state is “well on track” to receive proposals to build a casino in Baltimore by a July 28 deadline.

Robert Howells, procurement director for the state lottery, told the slot machine commission on Monday that there was a very good turnout for a pre-proposal conference in Baltimore last month. Howells said about 50 people attended, representing about 35 to 40 companies and entities.

The commission rejected an earlier proposal to build a casino. This time, however, Howells says he’s optimistic the state will receive “some good responses.”

The Baltimore casino would be Maryland’s second largest slot machine facility, with up to 3,750 machines.

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

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