Up, Running, and Live!
Sep 12, 2012 12:17PM
● By Anonymous
For David Cordish, it was the absolute best of nights.
On Wednesday, June 6th, at 10 p.m., nothing but hoopla surrounded The Cordish Companies’ much-ballyhooed Vegas-style gaming establishment and entertainment center when it finally opened at the state’s largest tourist attraction, Arundel Mills.
In fact, Maryland Live! Casino opened to more people than anyone involved anticipated, with two massive lines (plus the buzz around the mall entrance) that started forming in the early afternoon. Those lines still included 100 (or so) people who hadn’t surrendered their hopes of an orderly entry by 12:30 a.m.
With the tremendous buzz came various casino-inspired traffic issues, of course. They included the backup of the northbound lane of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for about 15 miles, stretching all the way to the Capital Beltway in Greenbelt (according to different sources); while drivers on Route 100 also experienced considerable gridlock.
The State Highway Administration’s new diverging diamond interchange at the Parkway and Arundel Mills Boulevard was not quite complete for the event (it is now).
But, all told, it was quite a night.
Cordish, the Baltimore-based developer, was on hand for the VIP party that began at Maryland Live! three hours before the doors opened to the public. The party came off in grand fashion, despite the then-looming threat of plans for a competing National Harbor complex in Prince George’s County.
About a week after the event, analysts from the state’s Department of Legislative Services (DLS) told a state gaming group assembled by Gov. Martin O’Malley that allowing another casino to be built at National Harbor would, in fact, cut into the market share at Maryland Live!. Those same analysts also told the group that if the Maryland General Assembly legalizes table games, Maryland Live! (which, in that happenstance, would add 800 to 1,000 new positions to the casino’s ranks) would not only recoup any shortfalls, but would also earn more money than originally predicted.
However, if the state’s casinos remain limited to just slot machines, the group predicted that a new facility in P.G. County “would reduce revenues at Maryland Live! by $112 million to $125 million,” says Warren Deschenaux, director of policy analysis at the DLS. All told, Deschenaux also said that the state would earn an additional $100 million overall if the sixth casino is approved and table games are added.
On the Other Hand
Noting his support for table games, Joe Weinberg, managing partner of The Cordish Companies, cast doubt on those findings.
Weinberg says he believed that Pricewaterhouse Gaming Group would deliver an independent consultant’s report. “Regretfully, at the hearing of the work group, the state’s Department of Legislative Services testified as to their own conclusions, and there would be no independent consultant’s report for the work group or anyone else to examine,” he says.
Pointing to DLS estimates that he called “too high” for the Ocean Downs (by 50 percent) and Perryville (a double-digit amount), he discussed the “unreliability” of DLS numbers that were presented in the past legislative session to both the House and Senate Committees, “to the effect that a casino at National Harbor would only affect Baltimore City and Maryland Live! to the extent of a 10 percent decrease in their revenues. Today, a few months later, DLS raised its estimate of loss of revenues to 25 percent for Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County casinos.”
“The unreliability of projections is the exact reason why no other state in the history of the U.S. has ever expanded gambling locations prior to the initial designees being open and stable, so reliable data could be ascertained,” says Weinberg. “In fact, Maryland Live! is enjoying [more than] 40 percent of its patrons from Northern Virginia, D.C., Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County.
In the end, although no special session has been called, rumblings will continue until the next General Session starts in Annapolis next January.
On the Floor
Stakeholders were encouraged by Maryland Live!’s take by the end of its first month of operation. It generated $28.5 million in revenue and paid in excess of $19 million in gaming taxes to the state. These taxes were based on the state’s 67 percent of $28,481,477.62 in gaming revenue, generated by the casino—a win per machine, per day, of approximately $359.27.
“The results are right in line with projections,” Weinberg said in a statement. “Critically, they came from [the aforementioned] wide geographic area.”
As for those patrons, Maryland Live! paid out more than $169 million to casino customers through June, including $6.8 million in jackpots of $1,200 or higher.
What kinds of numbers will be posted after the $500 million, 330,000-square- foot casino is completed this fall at Arundel Mills?
No one can say for sure, but more than a few observers with a professional interest, and many others with a personal curiosity, are looking forward to finding out, given the early numbers, what the total impact of the, Maryland Live! Casino will be.
The hope is for big payouts for Anne Arundel County and the state from the casino, which will add more than 1,000 additional slot machines and electronic table games between August and November, for a soon-to-be total of 4,750. That will make Maryland Live! the third-largest commercial casino in the United States. When complete, it will employ 1,500 workers.
Living up to its billing as an entertainment complex— it, in fact, entertained approximately 500,000 people during its first 24 days of operation—Maryland Live! also debuted Bobby’s Burger Palace, the concept of celebrity chef Bobby Flay; Market Live!; Noodles; and state stalwart Phillips Seafood on opening night. The Cheesecake Factory opened the following week.
Today, with its initial roar having calmed to a loud buzz, the second chapter of the Maryland Live! story is being written. The casino’s completion is set for this fall, when its capacity will rise from about 12,000 “to whatever is deemed safe by the Anne Arundel County Fire Marshall,” according to casino spokesperson Carmen Gonzales. Its 5,000-car parking garage is complete.
By fall, the casino will feature two more local favorites: The Prime Rib steak house and Rams Head Live!. The latter will open a 500-seat performance venue that will feature a variety of local and national acts.
But that might not be all. What could be more fitting to the hyperactivity of a casino than—you guessed it—karaoke? No official word has been made on that yet, but we’ve heard some buzz surrounding it, and with everything else the Casino plans to offer, we ask: Why not?