Anne Arundel Mills Mall Casino Referendum (November 2010)

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An Anne Arundel Mills Mall Casino Referendum measure was on the November 2010 ballot in Anne Arundel County.

Election results

Arundel Slot Parlor
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 103,263 56%
No 82,008 44%
Total votes 185,271 100.00%
Voter turnout  %

Results via The Washington Post.

Background

In November of 2008, there was a Maryland Casino Measure (2008) where voters approved the placement of slots in five locations throughout Maryland, one being in Anne Arundel county. It was decided Monday, December 21 that the Anne Arundel slot location would be at the Anne Arundel Mills Mall. During last years election, 59% of voters approved the placement of slots in Anne Arundel county. But now a coalition of anti-slot activists and Maryland horsemen are trying to gather the needed 19,000 signatures needed to suspend the approval and have county voters decide to approve the location or not; they have 45 days to collect these signatures.[1]

The fight to get slots approved was in order to help fund the county budget which is facing shortfalls, but if delays happen to the casino's building then the headache will remain. County officials are doubtful the petitioners will be able to get the needed signatures in the time they have.[2]

Support

The group Stop Slots at Arundel Mills was the main group heading the petition effort, noting that adding a casino to the mall would take away from the family friendly environment the mall currently has. The Maryland Jockey Club which operates the Laurel Park racetrack, and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association were the other groups that had joined the effort to petition against the slot placement. They had preferred the slots to be put at the Laurel Race Track, thinking they would be able to generate more revenue for the park there. But according to Maryland law, even with the slots elsewhere, the race track gets a portion of the money collected.[1]

The three groups fighting for a referendum vote on the slot location got their petition approved by county officials. The first step was that 9,500 signatures were needed by February 5, a part of the total needed to completely validate the petition. In parallel, the development group planning to build the slots at the mall had scheduled a community development meeting for January 15 and still continued with its plans. The company president was very skeptical that the petitioners will get their needed signatures.[3] The track will be auctioned the end of this week, and if the company does buy it they would still not put the slots in the track facility. Their plan is to build a facility in the parking lot of the mall, they had already filed initial building permit forms.[4]

Path to the ballot

As a means to get those needed signatures, the Jockey club president confirmed that they would be using paid signature gathers, in addition to volunteers. After the first half of signatures were gathered, the group had 30 more days to get the rest. Though the Jockey club could have pulled out of the petition drive if the company that will build the new mall casino ended up buying the Laurel Race Track which was up for sale due to bankruptcy.[5] MI Developments has bought the Laurel race track and plans to build a facility to hold slots even though they do not have the license to do so. Regardless of the slot issue between Cordish and the mall, the development group who bought the race track wanted to find way to make it profitable and were willing to go ahead with the construction in hopes that they would be a candidate to get slots if they failed at the mall.[6]

As of January 9, the drive for signatures was running at full steam. The jockey club hired Fieldworks Inc., a professional signature collecting organization, to head the drive. They had advertised petition gathering jobs on craigslist as well.[7] It was stated that they are working hard to garner support wherever they can, even though most often there are supports of the slots in close proximity to them, two views trying to come out on top.[8]

Signature protesters

During a signature gathering at the Maryland City Volunteer Fire Department, protesters to the possible petition disrupted the meeting, even some threatening gatherers as stated by witnesses. Those against the petition stated that costs of education could be supplemented with casino revenues and the horse racing industry was being hurt worse with the jockey club supporting this measure rather than help ensure the slot location. Signature gatherers left early due to these protests. Petition leaders say they are close to the required first batch of signatures and noted that protests against the petition was becoming more organized. Cordish, the company heading the casino development is hoping petitioners will not gather the needed signatures so that their building project is not delayed. State officials are also behind the casino stating that the revenues that could be generated from it are needed.[9]

First Group of Signatures

The petition gatherers turned in the first grouping of signatures, nearly 2,400, in the hope that there are at least the 9,395 needed to make it valid and move the process into the next stage. There was a need for 18,790 total signatures to get this measure onto the ballot and if the group succeeded in doing that in one group of petitions it would speed up the process for them. If they were short of the larger number they still would have time as long as they are over the first number. The group advocating the slots, Cordish Co was confident that the petition will not be approved due to irregularities or invalid pages. Petition gathers were confident the people said what they wanted with their signatures.[10]

Signatures were being verified and allegations had arisen that petitioners told potential signers false claims about the purpose of the petition, they were denied stating that there has been so much press about the issue most people already know what is going on. County election officials had 20 days to check and verify all of the signatures submitted.[11]

Final Signatures Submitted

The final group of signatures was submitted to the county clerk's office and although the proposed number exceeded the required amount, results of if there were enough valid signatures was pending. The clerk's office had a further 20 days to count the remaining signatures for validation.[12] The total submitted to the clerk's office was 16,702 signatures.[13] The president of the Anti-slot movement said the lawsuit filed against the petition did not deter them and hoped that it would be dropped if it is shown that they have achieved the needed signatures.[14]

As of March 12, 2010, 19,054 signatures had been verified by the count clerk's office, this meant that the measure had obtained enough signatures to push the issue to a vote in November. More signatures were left to be verified for a final total count, but enough have been verified so far to ensure there would be a vote. Though the lawsuit brought by Cordish still stands, the measure still had to go through that.[15] Maryland officials noted their frustration at having more setbacks to the slot implementation, more time they have to wait to receive revenues they are hoping to obtain from the venture.[16]

Measure placed on hold

Due to the continued lawsuit, the county commission had elected to put the slot issue on hold until the matter was resolved. A hold had been put on the verification of the rest of the signatures and a hold had been placed on further slot development that was being pursued by Cordish. Officials thought it best to see how the lawsuits played out before any decision either way was made on the slots. They hoped the issues would be resolved soon, frustration had mounted with the slots issue and the state not getting the money as soon as they had hoped for.[17]

Certified for November

The County Board of Elections had certified the signatures on the petition and has approved the measure for the November ballot. Planning at the Arundel mall had officially been put on hold now that there might not be slots placed at that location. Only 19,000 valid signatures were needed and the board certified around 23,000. Unless the Cordish lawsuit was successful and the court stops this election, there will be a vote in November.[18] The lawsuit was expedited, opponents wanted a decision made quick, noting that they felt the court would rule in their favor.[19] Both Cordish and the state were frustrated with the further delays in the slots, Maryland is eager to get the money from slot revenues and Cordish had been fighting long to get the rights to build. Cordish was also hopeful that the issue would resolve itself in May when the court heard the slots case.[20]

Lawsuits

There were two lawsuits filed in regard to this measure, the judge's decision on the first left the measure invalid for voting in November, but an appeal in the highest Maryland court put it back on to the ballot.

Lawsuit against County Election Board

Cordish had filed a suit against the county election board on the grounds that they had not properly checked for fraud on the petitions filed against the slots. Cordish was seeking a stop to the petition validation process on grounds that the board did not properly certify the signatures. Cordish also claimed that petitioners who were out gathering signatures did not tell potential signers all the facts or misrepresented them in order to garner support. Those petition gathers stated that was just a desperate attempt by Cordish to stop the potential vote. Though the validation process was still ongoing at the time, Cordish still claimed that the board had not proceeded properly. Cordish also claimed in the suit that the owner of Laurel Park had interest to not see the slots awarded to Cordish.[21]

Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the county board had referred the matter to the state prosecutor's office. Field Works, the company who collected the signatures and whom Cordish also sited fraud claims against, noted that they too would refute allegations of fraud.[22] The Stop Slots group which was the main force behind the referendum had also filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought on by Cordish, saying that the lawsuit was not legal because it violated a state statute which says that large corporations cannot file a suit just to intervene in a ballot measure. The group was asking that the case be dismissed.[23]

The judge heard arguments from both sides on April 15, 2010 as the lawsuit was heard for the first time by a judge. Proponents argued that the county had failed to investigate fraud while opponents to the lawsuit claimed that it was not the county's job to investigate fraud and wanted the lawsuit thrown out. The judge noted that a decision would be made soon on the issues, to throw out the lawsuit, to hear the fraud allegations or to let additional groups join in the case. The casino group claimed that they also had signed papers stating that residents only signed the petition because they were lied to about the issue. Since the lawsuit was not dismissed, the trial began on May 25.[24]

Second Lawsuit against Petition process

A taxpayer group which is funded by Cordish had filed a second lawsuit stating that the petition goes against the revised Maryland constitution which states that slots are legal in the state. The group claimed that the petition to block the development of the slot machines was unlawful in regards to this amendment and a county cannot hold a referendum if it goes against a state law. They also stated that by putting development on hold because of the petition, residents are losing out of potential jobs and revenue. Petition supporters stated that they felt Cordish was making a lot of effort to ensure there was not a vote and questioned their reasons.[25] New allegations had surfaced against Cordish, stating that the company purposefully placed a women in the petition gathering organization, Fieldworks, to disrupt the signature gathering. Cordish denied the allegations and stated that it was just another attempt by opponents to side track the proceedings and take focus away from the issues.[26]

Trial on slots

The trial had begun to determine if there was fraud committed in verifying the signatures gathered in the petition drive. The judge had decided to treat the case as a judicial review, meaning no new evidence could be introduced in the trial. The lawyers for Cordish had tried to introduce expert analysis of the signatures gathered, but the judge would not allow it. Cordish argued that the analysis would help prove the fraud, but the lawyers for the Jockey Club stated that trying to introduce new evidence after it was stated that there could not be new evidence was just an attempt to derail the court.[27]

Some opponents to Cordish had stated that all the company wanted with the trial was just to ensure that voters will not get a say in what they do. Arguments Cordish had put forth include stating that this vote would be undemocratic and the people of Anne Arundel would lose if they do not get the money that could be generated from the slots. In regards to the signatures, they argued over misplaced signatures, lack of phone numbers or addresses and boxes being in the wrong order chronologically.[28] Cordish also tried to get people who had signed the petition, but claimed had been told false claims about the petition, to testify but the judge also did not allow this. The judged ruled that those questions were outside the lawsuit filed by Cordish, the judge only had to determine if the County committed no irregularities in verifying the signatures gathered.[29]

The trial on the first lawsuit is now over and the judge will decide on the issue, whether to allow Cordish lawyer's to systematically go through all the signatures gathered or to leave the petition valid and let the issue go to a vote. More than 4,000 signatures would need to be thrown out to invalidate the submitted petition. Though the judge was likely to take several weeks to decide, it was assumed that whatever the decision is it would be appealed by the group that ended up losing.[30] If this measure was to appear on the November ballot language needed to be written by mid August, which meant that if the decision was appealed it would have to be expedited through the court so as to meet that deadline in case it is still approved.[31]

The second lawsuit was now in court, being deliberated by the judge and argued by both sides. This lawsuit contended that the petition was not constitutional since it would seek to prohibit slots when they are allowed through the State constitution. Those arguing in favor of allowing the petition to be allowed to move forward, stated that this lawsuit is the same as discussed in the previous weeks, the same issues are at stake. But those wanting to halt the petition state that this brings up different issues about the petition, the lawfulness of it and not the actual process of petitioning.[32]

Court Rulings

The judge made a decision on the case, stating that the petition was invalid because the slots are a part of a zoning appropriation package and such issues are not valid for referendum under state laws. Though opponents, the jockey club's attorney Rifkin, planned to appeal the decision in a higher court, for now there will be no vote on slots in the county. The judge did not say the signatures were invalid, or that many of Cordish's claims were correct, he just focused on the legality of a petition on the slots issue. Rifken stressed that zoning issues were allowed to be voted on by residents and hopes that an appeal will have better hope to win.[33] Rifkin has filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals hoping to overturn the previous court's decision stressing that all they want is for the people to have the choice of were the slots should go in the county.[34] The governor of the state, Martin O'Malley came out stating that he understood opponent's frustration and their want to have the choice were a slots parlor would go. He also noted that he did not understand the ruling of zoning not being allowed for a referendum vote.[35]

The issue was in the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, bypassing the intermediate appeals court. The court had decided to hear the case quickly, so if the ruling is overturned the language for the measure could be written before the deadline.[36]

The Court of Appeals has approved the measure for the November election, repealing the first ruling that invalidated the measure. The court issued an order to place it back on the ballot, but did not cite reasons for its decision.[37] The head of Cordish issued a statement that the loss of the case was a blow to the people of Maryland and those that would have benefited from the money from the casino. Construction would have begun the end of the year if the issue had not gone to voters.[38] Opponents to the decision stated that this will likely set back the casino in the county for years possibly due to the complications and likely rebidding for the contract.[39]

Campaigning on Slots


No on Slots ad

With local races for governor and county council seats being hot debates, the issue of slots had become a major point of campaigning. Not only were local activists trying to sway votes one way or the other on the issue, but candidates running for different offices had also to figure out where they stand on which way they feel the slots vote should go. The current mayor stated that anywhere the slots go would benefit residents of the county and it was up to their vote. Some Political analysts did not expect the issue to increase voter turnout significantly, but others agreed that the issue had been going on long enough to give way to strong feelings on both sides of the argument.[40] Former Governor Ehrlich helped bring the casino to the mall and the current governor hoped for votes for those against the mall location. Where as the other side is hoping those in favor will side with Ehrlich.[41]

Opponents

The campaign against slots, officially, No Slots at the Mall, had filed their paperwork to begin campaigning against putting the slots at the Arundel Mall.[42] Opponents of the measure had noted their frustration with the vague language on the ballot. The text of the measure asked voters if they wanted the zoning changed, not if the slot location should be moved from the mall. Opponents feared that voters who were not informed would think a 'yes' vote meant slots would not be put anywhere in the county, but that is not what the measure implies. Cordish officials countered with stating that the law the petitioners wanted change did not mention Arundel mall so the ballot language not containing the mall was valid. Opponents stated that their job to educate residents about the content of the issue will be the main objective.[43]

Opponents had raised $3.3 million for their campaign, with the majority of it coming from the Maryland Jockey's Club; around $2.8 million had been spent on TV adds against slots..[44]

David Cordish had taken it upon himself to go door to door talking to people in the neighborhoods around the mall. He hoped to persuade voters to vote for this measure and allow him to build the Casino. Though his company has built other casinos, this was the first time he personally has gone out to campaign and gotten so involved in the process in the hope to help educate and get the vote his way.[45]

Support

Cordish had named their campaign, Jobs and Revenue for Anne Arundel County and had filed a complaint about a competing company Penn National Gaming. Cordish noted that they were campaigning against the slots at the mall and this breaches their contract with Cecil County and the slots parlor they are building there. Though Cordish did not state what amount should be paid to the state, they thought at least $1 million a day would compensate for the lost revenues.[46] The Lottery Commission, whom Cordish filed the complaint to, noted that it would seek a statement from Penn National and view both sides before it would issue a statement about the complaint, at their 16 September meeting.[47]

The pro-slots campaigned aired its first TV add, in their start of campaign kick-off. Proponents hoped to be able to persuade voters that slots a the mall, stressing the loss of income for the state each day there are not slots making money. Though their campaign was later to get started, they felt that now that voters have heard the one side, they would be more open to the other opinion as well.[48]

Proponents had raised $2.6 million for their campaign, with the Arundel Mills Limited Partnership donating the majority of the money and Cordish Co. donating the rest; near $1.3 million has been spent on TV advertisements.[44]

Campaigners going door to door to help promote a 'Yes' vote had noted people's frustration with the zoning laws and try to explain that the promises by Cordish for more jobs and money are not guaranteed. The question of what will happen if slots are allowed and the huge influx of people start coming to the area has led the way for local persuasion against the slots.[45]

Polls

  • The Center for the Study of Local Politics at Anne Arundel Community College did a recent poll of likely residents in Anne Arundel County who would vote for this issue and results showed that it was basically a tie vote, with a significant amount still undecided about which way they will vote.[49]
  • The Opinion Works poll also showed a tight races, with a margin of error at 5 percent, it still looks to be a tied race.[50]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
October 11-14, 2010 Center for the Study of Local Politics 42% 42% 16% 415
October 15-20, 2010 Opinion Works 47% 45% 8% 422

State versus County

Anne Arundel county has now gotten involved in the case against the slots referendum, stating that the county laws should decide whether or not the referendum is valid not state laws, which are more lenient and which were used in the court ruling in favor of slots. A brief submitted to the Maryland Court of Appeals, stated that the judge erred when he followed state laws to define his ruling. The local government feels that this ruling could potentially limit the governance of local governments. Other counties, including Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore also agreed on the brief and supported Anne Arundel's position on the issue, that the county sets the rules for local petitions and should have the authority.[51]

Further Reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Washington Post, "Unlikely alliance forms to fight Anne Arundel mall casino," December 23, 2009
  2. Jay Hancock's Blog, "Don't bet on an Arundel anti-slots referendum," December 22, 2009
  3. The Capital, "Anti-slots petition gets green light," January 5, 2010
  4. Maryland and Politics, "Anti-Arundel slots signature drive begins," January 4, 2010
  5. The Washington Post, "Foes of slots site confirm use of paid petition help," January 4, 2010
  6. Maryland Gazette, "Twists ahead in slots drama," March 31, 2010
  7. Maryland Gazette, "Slots petition drive begins," January 9, 2010
  8. Maryland Gazette, "As first deadline nears, slots factions face off," February 3, 2010
  9. Maryland Gazette, "Protesters disrupt slots petition drive," January 27, 2010
  10. The Baltimore Sun, "Petition filed for vote on slots site," February 5, 2010
  11. The Capital, "Anti-slots petitions questioned," February 9, 2010
  12. The Capital ,"Stop Slots tops goal on petition," March 6, 2010
  13. WBAL, "Arundel Mills Opponents Submit Last Petition Signatures," March 5, 2010
  14. WBAL TV, "Anti-Slots Petition Gathers 40K Signatures," March 8, 2010
  15. The Baltimore Sun, "Arundel slots foes gain enough signatures for referendum," March 12, 2010
  16. The Washington Post, "Arundel slots likely headed to November ballot," March 12, 2010
  17. WBAL, "Slots Efforts Pro And Con In Anne Arundel On Hold," March 25, 2010
  18. WBAL, "Plans For Arundel Mills Slots Stopped Indefinitely," April 2, 2010
  19. Blood Horse, "Push for Maryland Slots Vote Gets Boost," April 2, 2010
  20. The Baltimore Sun, "Work on casino slams to a halt," April 3, 2010
  21. The Baltimore Sun, "Cordish tries to stop anti-slots signature drive," February 24, 2010
  22. The Baltimore Sun, "Fraud charges in slots petition referred to state prosecutor's office," February 25, 2010
  23. The Baltimore Sun, "Arundel Mills casino foes seek to intervene in Cordish lawsuit," March 17, 2010
  24. The Capital, "Lawyers drawing battle lines over slots," April 16, 2010
  25. The Capital, "Cordish backs new slots lawsuit," May 5, 2010
  26. The Capital, "Affidavit alleges slots petition sabotage," May 21, 2010
  27. The Baltimore Sun, "Judge rejects handwriting analysis as evidence in slots case," May 25, 2010
  28. The Capital, "Eric Hartley: Silencing the will of the people on slots," May 25, 2010
  29. The Daily Record, "Cordish lawyers can’t question Maryland Jockey Club, judge rules," May 26, 2010
  30. The Baltimore Sun, "Arundel slots trial ends," June 3, 2010
  31. The Daily Record, "Arundel slots petition case finally gets to judge," June 3, 2010
  32. The Capital, "Arundel Mills casino back in court," June 11, 2010
  33. The Baltimore Sun, "Judge: No referendum on Arundel Mills slots," June 25, 2010
  34. The Baltimore Sun, "Arundel Mills slots foes appeal rejection of referendum," June 29, 2010
  35. The Washington Post, "Anti-slots activists continue fight against casino," June 29, 2010
  36. The Baltimore Sun, "Maryland high court to hear Arundel Mills slots dispute," July 7, 2010
  37. Washington Post, "Md. court allows Anne Arundel slots referendum," July 20, 2010
  38. The Capital, "Slots referendum is on," July 20, 2010
  39. The Daily Record, "Court ruling could delay slots in Arundel for years," July 20, 2010
  40. The Capital, "Slots issue emerges in campaigns," July 25, 2010
  41. The Baltimore Sun Blog, "Arundel slots debate could go statewide," July 26, 2010
  42. The Baltimore Sun, "Slots opponents file campaign paperwork," August 2, 2010
  43. The Capital, "Vague slots question drawing complaints," August 6, 2010
  44. 44.0 44.1 The Baltimore Sun, "Slots backers and opponents give nearly $6 million to causes," October 10, 2010
  45. 45.0 45.1 The Capital, "Slots battle goes door-to-door," October 18, 2010
  46. The Baltimore Sun, "Cordish: Fine Penn National for funding slots opposition," August 26, 2010
  47. Maryland Gazette, "Gambling giants trade barbs," August 28, 2010
  48. The Capital, "Pro-slots campaign says 'Now or Never'," September 10, 2010
  49. The Baltimore Sun Blog, "Another poll shows dead heat on slots," October 21, 2010
  50. The Baltimore Sun, "Poll shows tight battle for Arundel Mills slots," October 24, 2010
  51. Maryland Gazette, "County inserts itself into slots appeal," July 17, 2010