“We are very, very, very interested in looking at every possible way to expedite the construction of this facility,” said Cordish.
Cordish broke his silence Thursday, speaking publicly for the first time since winning approval from Anne Arundel County voters Tuesday to build his casino. He said his company must find a way to build the temporary and permanent casinos and a parking garage at the same time without slowing progress on what would be the largest casino allowed under Maryland law.
“We will not let it interfere in any way with the building of the permanent [casino],” Cordish said. “So the logistics will be, ‘Can you do both at the same time?’”
The state would have to approve a temporary facility, an option that had also been contemplated for the casino being built at the Ocean Downs harness racing track on the Eastern Shore.
“Recognizing the delay that [Cordish’s development] has undergone because of the referendum process and the state’s need in getting the revenues moving as soon as possible, a temporary facility is certainly something that would be given consideration,” said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission.
Cordish’s casino is expected to generate more than $400 million in state taxes every year, and $30 million for the county.
Joe Weinberg, Cordish Cos. president, said the temporary casino would have heat, air conditioning and bathrooms, and that half of the 4,750 slot machines allotted for the permanent facility would be a “good guess.”
“When you walk into it, you won’t know you’re in a temporary facility,” he said.
The company built a temporary casino in Indiana in five months, according to Weinberg. He estimated the construction of the permanent, 215,000-square-foot casino would take 14 to 16 months, with an opening date sometime in 2012.
But before work on the site can begin, Cordish must obtain a range of permits from the county. Permitting work was halted this summer when the zoning for the casino was put on the ballot, but could be completed in three months, said Tracie Reynolds, spokeswoman for the county’s Office of Planning and Zoning.
Reynolds said Cordish still has to tweak utility, road and storm water management plans.
Cordish also restated his interest in the holdings of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the rights to the Preakness. The developer tried to buy the club out of bankruptcy this year and said Thursday he would welcome the chance to take control of the beleaguered organization.
“This is a time when Maryland horse racing could and should be flourishing,” Cordish said.
But, club President Tom Chuckas said Wednesday, “The Maryland Jockey Club is not for sale.” The club announced then it would seek state approval to stop live racing at Laurel Park and run only a 40-day calendar at Pimlico around the Preakness.
“These people [Jockey Club employees] are being used as pawns and it’s disgusting. It’s despicable,” Cordish said.
He said the state should use eminent domain powers approved in 2009 to seize control of the tracks and turn them over to another operator.
Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, called the club’s plan “disappointing,” but said the governor does not have plans to take control of the tracks.
Cordish said subsidies coming from slots revenues — 7 percent of revenues will go to purses and 2.5 percent to match investments in racetrack improvements — will make Maryland racing viable again.
“We’d be delighted, we’re ready, willing and able to do it,” he said.