City to use community gambling impact funds to pay for steam pipeline

Administration wants to use $3 million set aside for communities impacted by the new Horseshoe Casino to pay for a relocated steam line

horseshoe casino 1

Horseshoe Casino, shown along Russell Street, is scheduled to open next week.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

The Board of Estimates is expected tomorrow to peel off $3 million in gambling impact funds set aside for South Baltimore communities to pay for a relocated steam pipe that serves downtown institutions.

Combined with the city’s plan to pay for street improvements around the Horseshoe Casino, the allocation means that much of the projected $10 million in first-year funds for neighborhoods impacted by the casino will instead go to projects immediately around the facility.

“What’s going to be left for us?” asked James Alston, who represents the Westport neighborhood immediately south of the casino.

“The city is using money for things that were never intended by the state legislature. This money is supposed to go to the communities, not for the city’s or the casino’s needs, “Alston said in an interview. He sits on the Casino Local Development Council that is supposed to set priorities for the use of the impact funds.

The Rawlings-Blake administration will use the $3 million to reimburse CBAC Borrower, an entity controlled by Caesars Entertainment, the casino’s operator, for relocating the pipeline.

These funds are in addition to the $6 million in local impact funds, spaced over a three years, that the city plans to pay CBAC for street improvements. The Brew disclosed that deal two years ago. (Here is the city’s non-responsive response.)

State law calls for impact funds to be used for “improvements in the communities in immediate proximity to the VLT [Video Lottery Terminal] facility.”

Alston said a steam pipeline does not qualify in his mind as either a “community” or “in immediate proximity” to any community.

He said the Local Development Council did review the idea of using impact funds for the steam pipeline but never took a vote on the matter. The allocation is not listed in the “Year 1 Proposed Spending Plan” posted on the group’s website.

“The surrounding communities have already taken a hit from the reimbursement deal for the street improvements,” Alston said. “Now the powers-that-be expect communities like my own to sacrifice more?”

He added, “The city will collect lease payment from Horseshoe. This could be an alternative source [for funding] the pipeline relocation.”

Decision Made Last May

According to the agenda, the Rawlings-Blake administration decided to relocate the underground steam line in May and called on CBAC to do the work.

To date, CBAC has paid $1 million for the pipe’s relocation “with the caveat the City agrees to reimburse [it] for the first $1,000,000 and cover the additional construction costs expected to total $3,000,000.”

The agreement further specifies that “the reimbursement funds and the funds to cover the remaining costs are proposed to be future Local Impact Funds generated from the Horseshoe Casino.”

Baltimore is expected to receive $10 million in local impact funds from gambling in fiscal 2015. (This amount might be larger because the Horseshoe Casino is scheduled to open next Tuesday, or five weeks earlier than its expected October 1 start.)

Of the $10 million projected for fiscal 2015, $2 million is already allocated to CBAC for street improvements. The $3 million before the board would presumably come out of the first-year pool of impact funds.

Scalded Gamblers?

The city said that a study had determined that the 45-year-old steam line could pose a safety hazard to gamblers crossing Warner Street to enter the casino.

Of special concern were the three manhole covers in the street that could leak scalding-hot steam onto unwary patrons – or even blow up if the pipeline ever ruptured.

The steam line originates at the city’s BRESCO trash-burning plant in South Baltimore and runs downtown where it serves federal office buildings, municipal office buildings, the Baltimore Convention Center, Mercy Hospital, the University of Maryland Medical System and other institutional customers.

The network is under long-term lease with Veolia, the French-owned transportation and energy conglomerate.

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  • paticklyons

    further evidence that the casino experiment in maryland is nothing more than a cash grab to raise taxes for whatever spending the government actors want

  • BmoreGirl70

    Unbelievable, but expected from this crazy city!

  • robjackson81

    This is pretty ridiculous… can this decision still be overturned with enough pushback from the community?

    Side note: the casino exterior itself looks absolutely terrible. Bleh.

  • Gerald Neily

    The recent city hype, repeated in today’s Sun article about traffic jams, is that the goal of the casino is to “revitalize the city’s image”. Quoting SRB, what distinguishes classy casino cities like ours is “seeing Baltimore as a city that’s growing”, relative to cities which have not built casinos and thus are apparently not growing. It’s part of our effort to enhance of distinguished company with cities like Detroit and Cleveland, and thus distance ourselves from lesser cities.

    • Nacho Belvedere

      I said this before: I have seen casino gambling before in the form of indian/pueblo casinos. In New Mexico, there are “winner” casinos like Sandia in Albuquerque — big, fancy, extremely profitable for the pueblo and the state. Then there are the loser casinos like San Felipe — small, in not so great locations, borderline profitable, basically they separate gambling addicts and rubes from their money.

      Having seen that, and looking at Horseshoe, I can tell you that it is a loser casino. No amount of lipstick on the pig up front will change that. Big grand opening and lots of pretty words, oooh aaah. We’ll see the reality of it in 3-4 years.

  • Wally Pinkard

    At least the money at the state level is going to education… oh wait, they just shifted money from other things so its a net zero for education as well. This citizen is shocked.

  • Smiley

    Oh my word! Neighborhoods getting screwed by politicians and gambling execs? Stop the presses! C’mon folks…nobody should be surprised by this. Gambling has no net benefit except to casino execs, lobbyists, and elected officials. This is O’Malley’s true legacy. The time to be disgusted ended when the polls closed in November of 2008 and 60+% of Marylanders voted for this garbage. Now we get to live with the results.

  • ushanellore

    What a laugh

    Rob from Peter because he’s poor,
    give it Paul because he’s rich,
    it is alright for Peter to give,
    he already knows the pain of living
    without a stitch,
    he’s used to suffering,
    he’s used to being deprived,
    he’s learned to be happy with less,
    life being no more than chess,
    if checkmated he’ll walk away–
    rob from Peter because he’s poor,
    give it to Paul whose need is bigger
    he could be sued if his industry blows up
    he could be put out of business
    if the steam pipes underground burst
    then what would happen to Peter?
    he would have no place to go gamble
    and forget his woes,
    then what would happen to Peter?
    he would have no place to hang his hat
    and call it work,
    If Paul is allowed to wilt,
    Peter would be ground to silt,
    where the steam pipes could blow up
    Paul would know to by pass,
    It is Peter who is in danger
    we couldn’t possibly be that crass,
    we must save Peter by giving to Paul.

    Usha Nellore

  • trueheart4life

    As West Port gets screwed again, Veolia stands to get an improved steam line without putting a penny up … Sounds like another sweet deal for the corporate friends of our mayor. Will the Brew be taking a look at their lease agreement with the city, it appears to be another privatization scheme?

  • Tom Gregory

    Absolutely pathetic. I know it’s tough living here on the Democrat urban plantation, but how many times do they have to be kicked in the head by politicians before voters start changing their voting habits?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Here’s some unsolicited advice: You lose all credibility when you use racial dog whistle phrases like “urban plantation”.

      • Gerald Neily

        Rusty, you lose all credibility when you use plantation phrases like “racial dog whistle”.

        • ham_snadwich

          Dog whistle is a pretty commonly accepted term for phrases designed to appeal to a certain audience, frequently with racist connotations.


          • Gerald Neily

            So who are the racists here and why, HamSnad? Rusty? Me? Tom Gregory? The Brew for letting me write? Obama for his “dog whistle”? The reporter who misquoted him or felt compelled to correct his grammar?

          • ham_snadwich

            In this case, certainly Tom Gregory. The idea that people in the inner city are somehow slaves to Democratic elected officials is almost as ridiculous as the notion that Republicans would improve the city.
            But I was mostly commenting on the fact that “dog whistle” is a commonly accepted term.

          • Tom Gregory

            Calling me a racist is just plain whack! I didn’t mention or imply “inner city”, “slaves” or “Republicans”. That all in yo’ head and came out of yo’ heart…dog. If I didn’t know any better I would think you were really trying to hurt my feelings, especially after Fern asked everyone (above) to stop with the charges of racism.

          • ham_snadwich

            That’s what happens when your comment reads exactly like those of the mouthbreathers on the Sun’s website.

          • Tom Gregory

            Thanks Gerry, now you have the village idiots calling me a racist.

          • ushanellore

            It seems folks are after subconscious racism now– from the semantics of the comments they can construe one’s Achilles heel. The thought police is out, as they say. Based on the language you use, the gestures displayed, the nods and the stares, the looks, the books you read–all things are clues–you will be pilloried or outed with chains clanging, not just here, but in real life. Shrug it off. We are all prejudiced against something. All we can do is to keep the process of learning not to be prejudiced going.

            I have read you long enough on these threads to know you are on the up and up. If you let slip a phrase with a connotation that can be misconstrued by those lying in wait to misconstrue, you are not really safe from these attacks. They will happen from time to time. I don’t believe the folks who point these things out mean any harm. They simply want to triumph over those they see as smug or boring or plain wrong–people who express their opinions too strongly for their taste, people whom they perceive as intellectual snobs or plain snobs. They want those folks to get their comeuppance. Let them have their party.

          • Tom Gregory

            Roger that.

            I thought your suggestion to RS to write his own opinion piece to counter Gerry’s was on the money.
            Contributors to the Brew, however, must use their actual names. I’m puzzled why that post is missing.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Gerald, you never had any credibility. I’ll never understand why the Brew even lets you write op-eds.

          • Tom Gregory

            Write the Brew Editors directly and ask why. Stop taking your personal gripes with other commenters public. Vicious personal attacks can be grounds for getting tossed.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            It’s not like Gerald hasn’t been immune from making personal attacks. Just ask thatguysonheroin when he offered to have a “beer summit” over the Red Line, and Gerald condescendingly dismissed his offer.

            I’ll stop with the “personal attacks” on Gerald, though I will do so under protest since I think Gerald gets away with things that other commenters don’t since he’s a favorite of the Brew staff.

          • Tom Gregory

            Thanks Rusty. If we ALL dial it back a notch or two The Brew will remain one of the best and most insightful comment boards in Baltimore.

          • Gerald Neily

            Declining to do a “beer summit” out on Edmondson Avenue with some anonymous total stranger is a “personal attack”? James Hunt did say he’d take my place. How did that go? So what did I “get away with”, Rusty? Has some other Brew commenter ever done such a “beer summit”?

          • James Hunt

            Upon further review, I declined to drink and argue. Esp. over a dead issue like the Red Line.

          • Gerald Neily

            Thanks, James. The Red Line plan may look dead to anyone observing with a whit of logic, as the pricetag continues to grow out of sight. But to the Red Line faithful, desperate times call for desperate measures as we’ve see here. They stopped talking seriously about any specific alleged benefits of the project years ago (e.g. reducing congestion, improving connectivity, new transit-oriented development).

            Experience in Baltimore shows that such projects don’t truly die until they are displaced by something else. So we need to replace or modify the Grand Prix-friendly eight-lane Light Street plan and the isolated Greyhound Terminal plan next to the casino and of course, the MTA Red Line plan.

          • James Hunt

            Displacement. Yes.

            I say this not as an endorsement of the project but simply as a prediction based on observing our political masters over time: the Red Line will be killed and the arena/convention center project will be offered as the consolation prize for the city politicos, construction trades, etc. Probably not during this forthcoming legislative session, but definitely during or before the next.

          • ushanellore

            What! An Irishman and you wouldn’t drink and argue? You heretic!
            Not even a frothy beer in a pub with Heroin–
            he waxing poetic over the Red Line,
            you waning like water receding in low tide,
            the bartender singing to a merry whistle from (??)
            “EE YA YA YO,
            On the RED LINE we all must go,
            Hee, Hee let’s row
            across turbulent rivers upstream
            to achieve our noble goal!”

            I visualize American flags waving in the hands of your enemies.

          • James Hunt

            Guilty as charged. In this case, the initial thought was to stand in front of St. Bernardine’s and (in my case) point out exactly how much the Red Line was going to screw up Edmondson Avenue. Heroin, I guess, would’ve argued contra. What with the laws against drinking in public and all, I figured it would end up being a brief argument. When I was a nipper, the po-leece would just confiscate or demand that you pour out the rest of your six-pack if they caught you. These days, they take you in.

            At any rate, this current brewhaha (yes, yes: pun intended) reminds me of an old joke:

            Irishman walks out of bar and sees two guys going at it, fists flying. Has no idea why they’re fighting. Nonetheless, he walks up to the pair and says, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?”


          • Tom Gregory

            Years back use to attend CYO dances at St. Bernardine’s. A few blocks away behind the Edgewood movie house we (the Joe College guys) would pound a few cans of Country Club malt liquor courage beforehand. We never got pinched by the cops for drinking, but tossed out of CYO by the nuns for “suggestive” dancing. I think the dance was called the “Twist”.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            Gerald, I wasn’t calling you out for having declined the offer but for the tone in your response. You have a dismissive attitude towards those who have differing opinions- especially towards those who have not lived in the city as long as you have- as if their opinions shouldn’t matter.

          • Gerald Neily

            But Rusty, you’re the one who just said I “never had any credibility”. That’s the ultimate in “dismissive attitudes”. And then you single out That Guy on Heroin as having a better “tone” than I? (You also apparently know how long he has lived in the city.)

          • baltimorebrew

            I know Brew Comments is not exactly Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood but I think it also needs to be a little better than some of this stuff we’ve had lately, the name-calling and charges of racism. C’mon, let’s class it up, folks! -fs

          • Gerald Neily

            For the record, here’s my Brew article on the casino from two years ago, just in case someone wants to attack me on substance:

            The problem I see with this “dog whistle” thing is that one doesn’t know whether one is being called a racist or not, since the whole purpose is multiple meanings. “Plantation” might not be much better, but creating a battle of the metaphors just multiplies the entendres.

          • ushanellore

            Submit your rebuttal to Neily as an op-ed piece to the BREW. You may be pleasantly surprised. If it pleases the palate of the editors it will find its place in the sun. All else is petty jealousy and gripe. Remember, one man’s food is another man’s poison. I accept my poems are your poison. Be a sport or try again if your work is rejected by the editors but crying foul against the hard working editors of this excellent publication–which you obviously like to visit– or crying partiality–seems neither fair nor justified.

        • baltimorebrew

          Ok enough. Let’s just stop here, shall we? -fs

      • Tom Gregory

        Just a metaphor describing how the Democrat owners of my city control the lives of everyone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had any real credibility to lose.

        • BaltimoreDave

          Your right.

    • BaltimoreDave

      Do you think the GOP would have said no to subsidizing the city on gambling revenue to make an another tax cut pledge they couldn’t afford to do otherwise?

  • Arthur J.

    That money should be going to Westport and the other neighboring communities; the fact that most it won’t be isn’t surprising at all.

    But hey, we get a brand new casino that’s sure to be a game changer and revitalize the city! Get In On It!

  • Matt R

    Can’t the casino generate and run it’s own heating and AC system? It’s not that big of a building and they should be making enough money to pay BG&E. Since these lines are expanded and the city paid for it, shouldn’t residents and businesses in the Westport and areas surrounding the casino have the option to buy cheap steam heat from Veolia at the same kind of rates as downtown office buildings?

  • ushanellore


    Veolia from the 18th arrondissement of Paris same location as Moulin Rouge and Montmartre business intersecting art Toulouse Lautrec a dissipated debacle of a man depicting the pleasure scenes of the City of Lights drew its prostitutes and people on canvas was voice for truth Veolia global giant billions in assets manages in the USA public water waste transportation and energy Lautrec generous to a fault spent his money on friends and foes and let his wasted body waste much more his system inured to cocktails and cabaret Veolia its system inured to profits public on the bourse can afford to repair and maintain the infrastructure it leases won’t because that is not the contract won’t because that will eat into its profits won’t because that is not pragmatic Lautrec no control over his body dead finished came premature his last breath Veolia too big to fail too big to be considerate to the small in charge of what once was free in charge of essential matter energy and water not a penny given to the poor in its vicinity the poor scrounge for cold comfort Lautrec made the poor the oppressed the centerpiece of his painting fingers glorified the poor the oppressed the lost in his art took shape and showed the stoicism of the lower classes outsiders beyond the high gates Veolia behind the high gates hides from the poor nobody has seen its face in the dark Veolia does not want to know you if you are the oppressed the lost the pained if you work for Veolia for the pay check it cuts you must be happy don’t expect more from Veolia it can own Lautrec lock stock and barrel and probably does a globalist from socialist France a multinationalist from nationalist France Veolia.

  • baltimorebrew

    If your comment hasn’t been posted, it’s because it violates our Comment Policy against personal attacks. Let’s dial it back, folks.

  • BaltimoreDave

    7% of 800 Million is $56 million to offset the property taxes. How are they going to make up the difference even if they hit the $14.5 million in ground lease payments?

    They didn’t even get the Casino to pay its obligation under contract to reroute that steam pipe themselves. If they keep using “Local impact grants” as credit card for this money pit of police overtime and infrastructure I do don’t see how they will have anything they left that promised the tax payers.

    This casino is also not going to get glitzier over time. Once the new casino smell and novelty wears off I don’t see how it would do better than in its first year with all the free hype from he media for its Game Changing gran opening.

    Obviously there wasn’t the demand that someone was paid to project to justify the existence of this casino.

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