Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday that the state is getting "played for fools" by a company it contracted to build a slots parlor at a resort in Western Maryland.
The company, Evitts Resort LLC, had agreed to buy Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort in Cumberland and build a 50,000-square-foot gaming facility there that would house a minimum of 850 slot machines. But six weeks after the state signed off on the contract, Evitts scaled it down, saying the company couldn't secure the financing for the $65 million project.
"This is what I view as an abandonment of the original proposal," Franchot said at a meeting of the Board of Public Works, which approved the deal.
The modified contract delays construction of the gaming facility and lowers the number of slot machines to 500, which the company is now planning to house in existing conference rooms and other meeting spaces.
Franchot bemoaned the loss of the business from companies that will no longer be able to rent out the conference spaces, unless they want to "trip over slot machines and... bleary-eyed gamblers between morning breakout sessions."
"They promised a nice standalone gaming center," Franchot said. "Now they are sticking the slot machines right in the conference rooms."
The new contract requires that Evitts replace the conference spaces within three years, noted Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
But Franchot wasn't appeased. He demanded to know why the company didn't need approval from the board to change its contract. "Don't we get the sense that we're being played for fools here?" he asked.
An assistant state's attorney said the modification did not require the board's approval. A commission that selects locations for slots in the state had approved of the change. Timothy Cope, president of Evitts Resort LLC, did not return requests for comment.
The company must have known it would have a hard time getting enough financing for the project, Franchot argued.
"Boy I just -- I have a real question about this company that we're in bed with right now," he said. "The vendor isn't delivering the product they promised us -- the people of the state."
The new slots parlor is set to open in May 2013.