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Horse Racing Industry Watches Slots Vote In Anne Arundel County

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Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill this week giving the state's horse racing tracks much needed revenue through 2013.
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Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill this week giving the state's horse racing tracks much needed revenue through 2013.

By Cathy Duchamp

The Anne Arundel County Council will decide tonight, December 7, whether to allow construction of a casino next to a shopping mall. But the story is more about horse racing than slot machines.

The way Alan Foreman sees it, the future of horse racing in Maryland is in the hands of seven politicians who run Anne Arundel County.

"For Maryland racing, if the zoning is approved, that probably will spell the demise of Laurel Park and with it the racing industry in Maryland as we know it," Foreman says.

Foreman is the attorney for the state Horsemen's Association. He says when voters approved video slots last year, most assumed the casinos would be built next to racetracks. But the Laurel Park people couldn't come up with cash for a slots license. The real estate developers who did want the casino built next to Arundel Mills mall:

"Today, Arundel Mills generates 14 million annual visitors, has access right off 295," says Joe Weisman, partner at Baltimore's Cordish Companies. He believes the horse racing industry would make more money off slots at the mall than slots at a track.

"It doesn't matter where the casino is located. The horse racing industry gets the money from the casino," Weisman says. "So therefore they should want the casino where the most amount of revenue would be generated. And without debate that's Arundel Mills."

The Anne Arundel County Council and the Maryland Video Lottery Location Commission will look at that claim, when both groups take separate votes on the mall proposal tonight.

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