Less than one year ago, Maryland was a slots-only state. Today, Maryland is a full-fledged gambling state with impressive gaming revenue statistics. All it took to convert the state was a voter-approved ballot measure last November, called "Question 7," which legalized full-fledged gambling by introducing a host of new regulations and plans for future casinos.
Question 7: Helped by Outside Influences
Question 7 was boosted by numerous out-of-state gaming influences who saturated the campaign with pro-gambling messages three months prior to the election. The total amount of money spent on Question 7 advertising was over $90 million; never before had this magnitude of cash been spent on a Maryland campaign effort. Interestingly, the net cost of the campaign surpassed the amount of money spent by all Maryland politicians in their personal campaigns. Indeed, the budget for the legalization of gambling in Maryland was well-padded.
Maryland Live! Reaps the Benefits of New Law
Gambling revenue was up for the fifth consecutive month this October in Maryland. A casino by the name of Maryland Live! brought in over $50 million of that money. The state's Lottery and Gaming Control Agency reported that $2.3 million of that record-setting revenue came from a new Maryland Live! poker room that opened in August of 2013.
Upon its opening, the poker room quickly became one of the United States' most booming poker arenas. Sporting 52 card tables, this high-volume venue is second only to California's Commerce Casino in terms of foot traffic. The venue is also said to have stolen customers from a nearby West Virginia Hollywood Casino as well as the Perryville, Maryland Hollywood Casino. Poker revenue at the latter was down more than 60 percent over the course of the last five months; experts speculate the new game room at Maryland Live! had a lot to do with that.
Maryland's Four Booming Casinos
Maryland has a total of four casinos, all of which are faring quite well right now: The Hollywood in Perryville, the Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Cumberland, Ocean Downs in Berlin, and Maryland Live! in Hanover.
The Hollywood Casino in Perryville
Owned by Penn National Gaming, the Hollywood Casino in Perryville opened three years ago. Guests can dine at the Celebrity Bar and Grill, take in weekly shows at Bonkerz Comedy Club, and partake of over 1,000 slot machines and a slew of live table games.
The Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Cumberland
The Rocky Gap Casino Resort, less than one year old, stands inside the Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Guests at this deluxe facility enjoy spectacular scenery including glorious mountain and lake views. Over 550 slots and table games, as well as golf and gourmet dining, await guests. Diners can enjoy a meal at a lakeside restaurant or in one of several other high-quality eateries on campus. The rooms at this resort have been rated "4 Diamond" by AAA.
Ocean Downs in Berlin
The Ocean Downs casino is also called a "racino" because, in addition to 800 slot machines, it offers guests the opportunity to bet on live horse races. This past September, Ocean Downs received the go-ahead from Worcester county to expand the facility by 35,000 square feet. Although no new slot machines will be added, the administration does plan to add 10 table games to its menu of offerings, as well as a new restaurant and a horse race viewing area.
This casino is the home of nearly 5,000 slot machines. Built on land that once served as parking space for a mall, the facility shares a car ramp with the adjacent Arundel Mills Mall. The casino features one of famous chef Bobby Flay's Burger Palaces, a Cheesecake Factory, and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Its poker room, as mentioned above, has done its part to help skyrocket Maryland's gambling revenue in the past five months.
Horseshoe to Open in 2014
The growth spurt in Maryland gambling is expected to continue for the next several years. A fifth casino, the Horseshoe of Baltimore, is scheduled to open in 2014. When it opens, it will be the second largest casino in the state. Maryland Live! will be the largest.
Maryland's Sixth Casino: Who Will Win the Rights to It?
A sixth Maryland casino, to be owned by a yet-to-be-named company in 2016, will hold Maryland's final gambling license. Bidders for this project include MGM Resorts, Greenwood Racing, and a Penn National Gaming subgroup called Prince George's Racing Ventures. All three companies had to pass rigorous background checks before receiving approval as contenders for ownership of the license.
A tour of three possible site locations for the new casino is scheduled for late October:
- MGM Resorts hopes to open the facility at the National Harbor in Oxen Hill.
- Greenwood Racing hopes to open the facility on a parcel of land in Fort Washington.
- Penn National Gaming hopes to open the facility at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.
The Threat of Market Saturation
Although the economic news has been positive so far regarding revenue from Maryland casinos, some economists speculate that the state's gambling market will become saturated and cease to excel if these facilities do not expand their fan base. This threat may be amplified by the pending addition of the two new casinos. Bill Fasy, COO for the Ocean Downs racino, has already predicted that "somebody . . . is going to close." Fasy noted that his racino already competes with Hollywood Perryville for customers.
Stephen Martino, director of the state's Lottery and Gaming Control, is more optimistic than Fasy. Martino believes the offerings at Maryland casinos have done an excellent job luring in gamblers from Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In addition, he believes that Maryland citizens are more likely to stay in their own state to gamble now, thanks to the wide buffet of options found in their own backyard.