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In Maryland: 'You've got to pay to play!'

Feb 9, 2009 7:31 PM
by Ray Poirier | Maryland lawmakers made it very clear when they passed the slots bill: you’ve got to pay to play.

But, one of the six applicants for a video lottery terminal license, Laurel Race Course, failed to clip a check to its license bid. And the legislation was written specifically with Laurel in mind.

That sort of confused the license issue, leaving the Maryland Lottery Commission, the body that will ultimately award the licenses, in a quandary.

Magna International Corp., principal owner of the Laurel racetrack, petitioned for 4,750 slot machines but instead of submitting a check for $28.5 million with the application the company said it had placed the money in escrow and "hopes to be able to work with its partners, the commission and Anne Arundel County in the very near future to achieve a successful licensing of Laurel Racing and the construction of the Laurel VLT facility."

Magna, before giving up the $28.5 million, said it wants assurances that, if Laurel is unable to obtain all proper zoning and permits necessary for the VLT facility, the money will be refunded.

However, that is not the way the legislation was written. The law provides that the application fee would go into the general fund.

That prompted Senate President Mike Miller to opine: "The way this was set up is you got to pay to play, and anybody who didn’t put up their initial payment in my opinion is not a significant investor."