Baltimore's casino gained a leader and overcame an obstacle Tuesday.
Chad Barnhill, an 18-year veteran of the gambling industry, was named general manager of Harrah's Baltimore at a news conference at the planned site of the casino on Russell Street near M&T Bank Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Board of Contract Appeals dismissed lawsuits from two companies that sought to block the state from awarding a casino license to CBAC Gaming, a Caesars-led group. The move clears a legal hurdle for Caesars to move forward with its casino.
In a two-page order, a judge found the two companies upset by the award —Baltimore City Entertainment Group and HarborWest Partners — had no legal standing to appeal the state's award because neither bid on the casino license last year.
Barnhill takes over a project that could be nearing groundbreaking after years of fits and starts.
Most recently the assistant general manager at Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Bossier City, La., he has worked for Caesars since graduating from college. He has not overseen the opening of any of the company's other casinos, but did manage the construction of a $60 million hotel.
Though he won't move to Baltimore until the beginning of next year, Barnhill, 40, has begun working on his new duties and announced the creation of a website (caesars.com/baltimore) where potential employees can learn more about the company and sign up to receive email updates on the hiring procedures. The casino plans to hire at least 1,200 people; if Question 7 passes and allows the installation of table games, an additional 500 jobs would be created. A majority of those jobs, Barnhill said, would be filled by Marylanders. At the company's casino in Cleveland, 90 percent of jobs went to local residents.
One of Barnhill's immediate duties will be to collaborate with the building design team on gaining city approval for the $375 million project. Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel members rejected a plan that called for massive parking structure to be built behind the casino. They also asked to see reconfigured designs for traffic flow, and suggested changes to the materials used on the building.
Representatives from the casino group are expected to deliver revised designs at a work session with the city on Wednesday, UDARP coordinator Anthony Cataldo said. That meeting could pave the way for another official review in coming weeks. Caesars and the other partners in CBAC would like to begin construction soon in order to open the casino in the third quarter of 2014
"We'll do whatever we need to do to work with the city," Barnhill said. His main duty over the next few months, he said, will be getting "ingrained with the city."
Baltimore Sun reporters Steve Kilar and Annie Linskey contributed to this article.