Rocky Gap casino asks to be smaller

Update, 3:50 p.m.: A state panel has signed off on the revised casino plan at Rocky Gap.

Original post: The owner of a planned casino in Western Maryland asked a state panel for permission Tuesday to downsize after running into difficulties obtaining financing.

Evitts Resorts won approval in April from Maryland regulators to build a casino at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort that would open with 850 slot machines and eventually grow to 1,000 machines.

On Tuesday, Tim Cope, the company’s president, asked the same panel to approve a plan for 500 machines. Under the new proposal, the casino would be built inside the existing lodge, in what is now a meeting space. The earlier plan called for constructing a separate building.

Cope said the requested change was the result of an “unfortunate inability at this time to find third-party financing.”

He said Evitts could fund the smaller version of the casino with its own cash, alleviating the need to find financing. Potential investors, Cope said, were uncertain whether the casino could attract enough patrons, given its location in a relatively rural area of Allegany County.

Donald C. Fry, the chairman of the panel, said it would take the request under consideration.

The Rocky Gap site is one of five that were authorized by Maryland voters in 2008.

The panel that picks casino locations also has on its agenda Tuesday the likely award of a license for a Baltimore casino to a group led by Caesars Entertainment.

The panel adjourned into a closed-door session shortly after 2 p.m. and is expected to make announcements about its deliberations later Tuesday afternoon.

Next week, the General Assembly is scheduled to convene for a special session on expanded gambling that includes a proposal for a sixth casino, to be located in Prince George’s County.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.

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