The fate of Maryland’s largest and most lucrative casino proposal is now in the hands of Anne Arundel County voters, Maryland highest court ruled on Tuesday.
The Court of Appeals ordered Anne Arundel to include a zoning ordinance — which is needed to build the slots casino at Arundel Mills Mall — on its November ballot.
The decision reversed a lower court’s ruling in June that the casino’s location is not a matter of local discretion because the revenues from slots machines will fund state and local government.
The decision further delays the casino’s opening, which has been long delayed by legal battles, and raises the possibility voters could reject the proposal altogether in November.
“I have always preferred that these slots locations be limited to race tracks, but this is a local zoning issue that should be decided by the people of Anne Arundel County,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said.
Voters approved 15,000 slots at five locations in 2008. None of the locations has opened for operation, mainly due to a scarcity in licensing bids.
The Arundel casino wasn’t a hard sell, however, as the site of one third of the state’s slots — and therefore one-third of the state’s slots revenue.
Opponents of the Arundel location argued that the casino should be installed at the Laurel Park horse-racing track instead. Locals also complained the Arundel Mills location would generate too much traffic.
The state was set to receive about $450 million annually from the Arundel casino, and the county would make about $35 million a year.