Arundel ‘stop slots’ campaign has spent $3.1M, Cordish group $1.9M

The campaign to derail the development of a casino at the Arundel Mills shopping mall has spent $3.15 million through Oct. 3, the vast majority of which came from the Maryland Jockey Club.

It was not clear from the campaign finance report filed with the state Friday how much of the money came from Penn National Gaming Inc., the jockey club’s part-owner and owner of the state’s first casino, which opened in Cecil County last week.

Meanwhile, the pro-slots group backed by casino developer The Cordish Cos., called Jobs and Revenue for Anne Arundel County, has spent $1.9 million, according to its report.

That group reported raising $600,000 from Cordish-controlled companies and $2 million from Arundel Mills Limited Partnership, which is listed in financial documents as a subsidiary of The Mills Corp., parent company of Arundel Mills.

Representatives for Cordish, the mall and Penn National, which has not hidden the fact it is bankrolling the casino opponents, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The jockey club’s group, No Slots at the Mall, has spent $2.8 million on advertising this year, running television ads since Aug. 13 urging voters to turn down Cordish’s zoning and offering up Laurel Park, one of the club’s tracks, as an alternative to the mall.

No Slots also spent $152,000 on direct mail and $34,000 on other campaign materials.

The jockey club’s $3.275 million was the only source of cash for the anti-slots group.

No Slots listed a cash balance of $123,000 on Oct. 3, but the jockey club was able to make seven donations between $275,000 and $800,000 from Aug. 10 and Sept. 23, so its coffers are unlikely to remain bare for long.

The jockey club also made $96,000 in “in kind” donations for legal and consulting fees, to which Penn National added $101,000.

The contributions to No Slots are not the first foray into Maryland referendum battles for Penn National. The casino operator pumped $2 million into the campaign to legalize slots in 2008, according to state campaign finance data.

The pro-slots group’s expenses included $1.3 million on advertising and other media expenses and nearly $230,000 on printing political signs and other materials.

Cordish and Penn National have been embroiled in a bitter dispute over the future of gaming in Anne Arundel County.

Penn National has said its ultimate goal is to win the slots license for the jockey club and build a casino at Laurel Park. A spokesman said Wednesday that Penn National has options available to own a casino there after opening the state’s first slots parlor, Hollywood Casino Perryville, on Sept. 27.

It could work to change the law, change the management or ownership structure of the jockey club or sell Perryville, which the spokesman said is a possibility, but not one that Penn National has actively considered.
Cordish was the lone qualifying bid for the license in February 2009 — the jockey club’s bid was thrown out — and planned to build the largest casino in the state, with 4,750 slot machines in a structure separate from the mall.

In May, Penn National announced a joint venture to own the jockey club and its tracks and backed a drive to put the zoning for Cordish’s project on the Nov. 2 ballot, leaving it up to voters to decide the fate of the casino.

Cordish filed a complaint in August with the State Lottery Commission, requesting it keep Penn National from backing the anti-casino group in Anne Arundel, and levy fines to make up for revenue lost to the delays there.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, however, wrote in an Oct. 5 opinion that the commission doesn’t have the power to limit Penn National’s actions in that regard, clearing the way for the company to continue its anti-Cordish campaign.

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