The Maryland Court of Appeals has issued an order in the case of Citizens Against Slots at the Mall v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, LLC, overturning a circuit court decision and ordering that a referendum on whether Arundel Mills Mall should be re-zoned for slot machines be placed on Anne Arundel County’s November election ballot. The July 20 order was reported by the Baltimore Sun:
Lawyers for community groups and the Maryland Jockey Club, which financed a successful referendum effort to challenge zoning approval for Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. to build the state’s largest slots casino, appealed the decision that the ballot question is not allowed under state law.
Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ruled in June that the referendum was illegal because the zoning legislation to authorize a Cordish Cos. subsidiary to build a billion-dollar casino is part of an appropriation package. According to state law, appropriations — or spending allowances — cannot be decided upon by voters at the ballot box.
As previously reported in Conduit Street, counties have been concerned about this case over a preemption issue raised by the circuit court and MACo supported an amicus brief jointly submitted by five counties. The preemption issue was ancillary to the referendum holding and until the Court of Appeals releases its opinion on the case, it is not clear how that issue will be addressed. The immediate order only deals with whether the zoning for slots could be subject to a referendum. The Court could still decide either way on preemption.