Wednesday, Sept. 23-Slots Approved For Ocean Downs

ANNAPOLIS – Ending a years-long political battle over the potential for slot machine gambling in Worcester County, the Maryland Video Lottery Location Commission this afternoon unanimously voted to award Ocean Downs the first slots license in the state with as many as 600 machines in a temporary configuration at the historic track near Berlin as early as next spring.

The commission voted Wednesday afternoon to approve track owner William Rickman, Jr.’s application for one of five slots licenses in the state after carefully reviewing the applicant’s business plan and background check. Ironically, Wednesday’s approval makes Ocean Downs in Worcester County the first approved slots facility in the state despite some of the fiercest opposition to the gaming machines coming from the resort area over the battle over slots.

“We are very pleased to win approval,” Rickman said yesterday. “We thank the state of Maryland, the Maryland Lottery Office, the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, the residents of the state and everyone who has been involved in the slots effort for making this day possible.”

While many of the other proposed slots venues across the state are mired in legal battles and red tape, the Ocean Downs application was comparatively straight forward with a plan to start slow with 800 machines initially with the possibility of expanding to as many as 1,500 in the future. Rickman said today his company, Ocean Enterprise 589, would immediately move forward with plans to convert Ocean Downs’ existing 34,000-square-foot grandstand into a gaming area.

The new casino is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2010 and will initially house up to 600 slot machines. The remaining 200 approved machines will be added within one year of the casino’s opening.

Rickman, who owns racetracks and gaming operations in Delaware, said the approval for slots at Ocean Downs on Wednesday could help promote the region as a gaming destination.

“With the approval, I believe this ushers in a new era of mid-Atlantic cooperation,” he said.

Rickman said approximately 265 employees will be needed to staff his slots operation at Ocean Downs in the short term, with hiring for management positions expected to begin later this year. He added the approval for slots at Ocean Downs will add jobs in the area at a time when they are needed the most and will benefit both the residents of Maryland and the state’s horse racing industry.

“We expect that most of our team members, and many of our customers, will be from the local vicinity- Worcester County, Ocean City and Ocean Pines,” he said.

For the full story, see The Dispatch on Friday morning.