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Caesars: Unions will help build Baltimore casino

A Las Vegas gambling company with plans to build a casino in Baltimore said Tuesday that union labor will “absolutely” be used to build the facility.

Horsehe Casino Cleveland

The high limits area of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, which could serve as a model for Caesars' planned Baltimore casino. (Photo: Caesars Entertainment Corp.)

Caesars Entertainment Corp., which heads a group licensed to build a casino on Russell Street, said union leaders have no reason to fear being shut out of the project. Several company executives plan to meet with union leaders Thursday.

“Any concern that Caesars Entertainment or its general contractor will not include union workers in the construction of Horseshoe Baltimore is unfounded,” a Caesars statement said. “The company has an established record of utilizing union workers in development projects nationwide, and we absolutely will have union workers on the job in Baltimore.

“We look forward to meeting directly with union representatives as we continue our plans for a world-class casino in Charm City.”

The Baltimore Building & Construction Trades Council and Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO told The Daily Record on Monday they were concerned that general contractor Whiting-Turning Contracting Co. planned to use exclusively nonunion labor to save money on the $400 million project.

Caesars, which leads casino licensee CBAC Gaming LLC, expects the job to take 2,000 workers more than one year to complete. It was unclear Tuesday how many union workers might be hired to build the 262,000-square-foot casino and an adjacent parking garage.

There is no legal requirement that unions take part in any casino construction in Maryland. But labor leaders were miffed by the possibility of being shut out of Horseshoe Baltimore’s construction because they actively campaigned for Question 7, the expanded gambling law passed by the General Assembly in an August special session and sent to referendum.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requested the parties meet to resolve their differences after union leaders asked the mayor for help. Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, confirmed Tuesday that the governor’s office was also involved in conversations with the unions. Guillory did not say if O’Malley intended to get further involved in negotiations among the unions, Caesars and Whiting-Turner.

Towson-based Whiting-Turner has not responded to requests for comment.

The Baltimore trades council was one of several labor groups that formed a coalition to support expanded gambling during the legislature’s three sessions this year, and continued campaigning after a gambling bill was approved by lawmakers.

As approved, Question 7 authorized casinos to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also legalized table games such as blackjack and poker and allowed bids to be placed on a sixth state casino license for use in southern Prince George’s County.

No labor agreement was reached before the law was approved by voters. But union leaders expected many of their workers to be hired in Baltimore and at other casinos.

The proposed Baltimore facility, which should open in 2014, is authorized to have 3,750 slot machines, though that number could be reduced to make room for between 80 and 110 table games. The casino will also have a World Series of Poker room.