One of two bidders competing against each other for a slots license in Western Maryland recently approached the other about the possibility of brokering a deal, according to one of the bidders.
Nathan Landow, whose company is seeking a license to operate a slots casino at Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort in Allegany County, said he was contacted a few weeks ago by a lobbyist for Evitts Resort, the other bidder for the project.
At the time, both Landow Partners and Evitts Resort had submitted bids for the slots site, one of five authorized by Maryland voters in 2008. While all five sites have been open to competitive bidding, Rocky Gap is the only location to draw more than one interested party during the same round of solicitations.
Landow, a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said he was approached by Ivan Lanier, a lobbyist for Evitts Resort, about finding a way to “eliminate the competition.”
“I said we had no interest in that,” Landow said. “I found it a little unusual, and it made me uncomfortable. ... I feel there are just two bidders, and we should stand on our own and let the chips fall where they may.”
In a brief interview, Lanier said that “no one really knows who contacted who, to be honest.” He referred other questions to Michael Leahy, a lawyer for Paragon Project Resources, one of the companies that is part of the ownership structure of Evitts Resort.
Leahy confirmed that contact was made between the two bidders but said no substantive discussion took place. Once he learned of the contact, Leahy said he advised his client to disclose the situation to the state commission that is charged with picking slots operators.
Donald C. Fry, the commission chairman, said that his panel was made aware of the contact. “There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that kind of conversation taking place,” he said.
Fry stressed, however, that any conversations between the bidders were “outside of the purview” of the commission and that his panel was in no way involved.
After the interaction between the two bidders, both detailed separate proposals to the commission last week during a site visit to Rocky Gap, a state-financed resort that has struggled financially.
Evitts Resort proposed a casino with 850 slot machines that would expend to 1,000 machines within a year of opening. The company would also add a live entertainment bar and a quick-serve restaurant.
Landow proposed opening with 500 machines and expanding to 1,000 within a year. His proposal includes a new spa at the site, as well as expanded golf and tennis facilities.