On January 12th, 2009, an influential entrepreneur who denounced the slot machines as the plague of the horse racing industry now wants to construct a slots casino facility in Anne Arundel County-to help Maryland’s ailing horse racing tracks. Halsey Minor stated that he is still not in favor of placing slot machines at racing tracks and instead wants to construct a standalone casino facility with the earnings funding his crusade to save horse racing.
His bid for a slots license would directly competed with an anticipated gaming proposal from Magna Entertainment, which owns the Laurel Park racing track and has long petitioned for slot machines to improve business there. Halsey Minor’s entry into the field of bidders comes as state officials are preparing to study proposals for the development slot machine casinos, which are due on February 2nd, 2009.
As part of that whole process, more than eighty representatives from interested slots bidders and other businesses with an interest in slot machines gathered in a meeting at the Maryland Lottery Commission. Maryland Lottery Director Buddy Roogow, whose agency will handle the slot machines, said that this only shows that there is a great deal of interest in the slot machines.
While several of the potential slots bidders have signaled their interest in constructing the casinos-including the Cordish Cos., Penn National Gaming Incorporated and Magna Entertainment-some gaming experts question on whether the Maryland slots program will be able to attract a lot of bidders because Maryland’s tax rate on slot machine revenues is among the biggest in the U.S. Aside from that, with the financial markets experiencing a recession, some gaming companies might not be able to put together a decent bid. Developers are required to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the slots establishments, aside from paying licensing fees.
Several participants at the Maryland meeting questioned state officials about the types of slot machines that will be available at their disposable. By law, the state will own or lease the slot machines. Roogow said that Maryland would work with the operators and obtain different types of slot machines to make the program as interesting as possible.
Vincent Tagliabracci, a developer who has been a partner in casino gaming operations in other states and just last formed Allegany Entertainment to invest in the state of Maryland, attended the conference and said that he is thinking of joining the slots bidding. But he said that the bid requirements including the high tax rate might not be beneficial for most bidders and investors. Minor, who is a son of a Baltimore-based horse breeder, was vague about the details of his bid.
The founder of CNET Networks, he is reportedly worth several hundred million dollars. Minor said that his slots bid will include a partnership with an unnamed operator to manage the gaming business.
Minor’s proposal is a surprising move on his part. On October 2008, Minor campaigned against slot machines together with Comptroller Peter Franchot. Minor said that his slots opposition is consistent with his current slots bid for the Anne Arundel license.
Minor added that part of his proposal is going to be a pledge to Maryland that all revenues from the slot machines will stay in the state and will go to rebuilding the infrastructure of horse racing.