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Caesars submits proposal for Baltimore casino

ANNAPOLIS — A development group headlined by gaming giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. is seeking state approval to build a casino just south of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

The slots parlor would be the second-largest in Maryland, with 3,750 terminals.

The state also received three proposals Friday for the casino to be built in Western Maryland at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort.

“The encouraging thing about this is it does give us applicants now for all five slots locations in the state of Maryland,” said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission. “To receive one bid for Baltimore City with the requisite $22.5 million license fee is a significant step forward.”

Fry said receiving the license fee was particularly heartening. In the first round of proposals for the five Maryland casino sites, there were two major bidders that never delivered the full fees, including the lone bidder in Baltimore.

“That’s a pretty hefty investment that you’re making up front, in addition to developing plans to begin with,” Fry said. “That’s a good sign that this is a company that appears to have the financial wherewithal and the experience, and the project is of a quality that we like to see in Maryland.”

Fry did not reveal any details about the proposals Friday.

But according to a statement from the company, Caesars would be the lead investor and operator of the casino.

“We look forward to the opportunity to build on our collective commitment to revitalizing urban markets nationwide through the creation of a world-class casino entertainment experience in Baltimore,” said Gary Loveman, president, chairman and CEO of Caesars

Fry said he hopes to choose the winning proposals in early 2012, but added the complex corporate structure and sheer volume of principals — there are 27 principals and officers listed — could make for a longer background investigation.

The Caesars group carries prominent Maryland names. The list of principals included Anthony Deering, the former Rouse Co. chairman and CEO; Remedi SeniorCare Chairman and CEO Michael Bronfein, three executives of the A&R Companies and Belinda Stronach.

Stronach is the daughter of Frank Stronach, who owns Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. She served for two years in the Canadian parliament and was a high-ranking executive in Magna International Inc., her father’s automotive parts company.

A&R, a real estate development and management firm, has offices in Baltimore and Washington. The executives involved in the casino project are President Theo Rodgers, Executive Vice President Marjorie Rodgers Cheshire and Vice President Anthony Rodgers.

The Caesars list also includes Loveman, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Halkyard and six members of the company’s board. They are Jonathan Coslet, senior partner at TPG Capital; Karl Peterson, a TPG partner; Eric Press, partner at Apollo Global Management; Marc Rowan, a founding partner of Apollo; Jinlong Wang; and Christopher Williams, CEO of Williams Capital Group.

Another group also submitted a proposal for the Baltimore gaming license Friday, but state officials said Baltimore City Casino LLC did not send in the $22.5 million licensing fee required.

Fry said the Charles Hopkins, president of CEO of National Harbor-based RMD Holdings LLC, dropped off the group’s proposal Friday morning and “indicated” the money would be wired to the state. But it never arrived.

It is “fair to anticipate that one will be disqualified,” Fry said.

Baltimore City Entertainment Group, the developer that saw its proposal rejected in 2009, has an appeal of that rejection pending before the Court of Special Appeals.

After soliciting proposals twice for Western Maryland and coming up empty, the slots commission will have three proposals to review.

Nathan Landow, the former head of the Maryland Democratic Party, proposed a 500-machine venue. A partnership between Allegany Entertainment Group and Potts Gaming LLC proposed 200. And Evitts Resort LLC is seeking 850 machines. That group includes William Correa, head of Paragon Project Resources Inc., an engineering firm in Texas.

Fry said the number of machines in the proposals was just “one of the factors” the commission will look at in determining which developer it chooses.

Evitts submitted a $2.1 license fee. This year, the legislature waived the $3 million license fee on the first 500 machines in order to entice more developers to bid on the Rocky Gap license.

To avoid being left at the altar again, lawmakers this spring lowered the tax rate on gaming revenue from 67 percent to 50 percent for the first 10 years and also waived the $3 million fee.