A proposal from a company headed by Nate Landow, a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, was disqualified because of “continuing deficiencies” in both its financing plan and business model, the panel said.
The action left one bidder, Evitts Resort, in contention to build and operate a casino in Allegany County, one of five slots sites authorized by Maryland voters in 2008.
Landow said in an interview later that he found the panel’s decision “surprising and concerning.”
He said that the bondholders for the Rocky Gap lodge, who must also approve a deal, appeared to have more influence in the decision than the panel.
“I don’t think this was done in the best interests of the state,” he said.
The panel previously had rejected another applicant for the location after bids were submitted in September.
“We still have to evaluate the proposal itself,” Fry told reporters after the meeting.
The Rocky Gap location is one of two in Maryland that remain with operators after multiple rounds of bidding.
Fry’s panel is also evaluating a single bidder for a location in downtown Baltimore. That applicant is a partnership that includes Caesars Entertainment and Ohio-based Rock Gaming, headed by Dan Gilbert, the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Landow had proposed opening at Rocky Gap with 500 machines and expanding to 1,000 within a year. His proposal included a new spa at the site, as well as expanded golf and tennis facilities.
Fry said the original proposal relied on about $25 million in state-issued bonds to finance the project — something his panel has no authority to authorize.
Two slots sites are currently open in Maryland: in Cecil and Worcester counties. A third site, in Anne Arundel County, is expected to open in June.
The legislature is expected to debate adding a sixth site in Prince George’s County during its current 90-day session.