ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland officials awarded the state's fifth and final slots license on Tuesday, clearing the way for a casino in downtown Baltimore.
A group of investors, led by Caesar's Entertainment Corp., can now move forward with plans to invest more than $300 million on a Baltimore casino, known as Harrah's Baltimore, to be located within blocks of M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens.
Plans call for a roughly 110,000 square foot gambling facility with up to 3,750 slot machines at the slots parlor, now scheduled to open in the spring or early summer of 2014.
Officials estimate the casino will create 1,200 new full-time jobs and gross more than $400 million in slots revenue in its first year of operation.
Despite some concerns with Caesar's debt and the need for developers to finalize construction deals with the city of Baltimore, slots location commission chair Donald Fry said officials expect they'll be successful in Baltimore.
The award completes the work of the commission, which has been responsible for reviewing bids from developers hoping to build casinos at the five sites in Maryland approved by voters in a 2008 referendum.
And depending on the results of a special session on gambling next week, the commission may be called on once again to oversee a competitive bid process for a casino site in Prince George's County.
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Annapolis on Aug. 9 to vote on an expansion of gambling, which would include a sixth casino site and table games such as blackjack and roulette.
If approved, the measure would be placed on ballots in November for a statewide vote.
Anne Arundel County lawmakers met Tuesday morning to discuss the special session with casino developers at Maryland Live, the state's newest and largest casino which opened in June at Arundel Mills mall.
The casino's operator, the Cordish Cos., is opposed to a competing casino being built in Prince George's, and members of the Anne Arundel delegation are expected to vote against any gambling measure that would authorize a casino site in Prince George's.
The commission also approved an amendment to plans that would bring slots to Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort, which now may house just 500 slot machines in the existing conference space at the facility in western Maryland.
Investor Evitts Resorts won approval for a casino license in April with plans to build a new space for 1,000 slot machines, but were unable to find the necessary third-party investors to fund the project.