Table games at Maryland Live! Casino

Game tables are crowded as live action table games at Maryland Live Casino opened to the public at 12:01 am. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / April 11, 2013)

Gamblers dropped some serious cash at Hanover's Maryland Live casino last month, generating the bulk of a record-breaking $77.9 million haul in statewide casino revenue in March.

The $61.8 million monthly take at Maryland Live — a 38.5 percent increase over March 2013 — continues the Anne Arundel County casino's regional climb to dominance and helps account for the best monthly performance by Maryland's four operating casinos to date.

"You just see the continuing ascension of Maryland casinos into a higher orbit in the Mid-Atlantic gaming market," said James Karmel, an industry analyst and history professor at Harford Community College.

On Monday, Maryland Live officials expressed confidence in the numbers and their regional position.

"With our world-class facility, location, amenities, and service, we will continue to be the market leader," said Robert Norton, Maryland Live's president and general manager, in a statement.

But others aren't so sure.

Maryland Live could be near its peak, some analysts said, if its pace of revenue growth is curtailed or reversed by the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in August or September, as some expect.

"That's going to siphon off some of the Baltimore traffic from Maryland Live," said Alex Bumazhny, director at Fitch Ratings, which provides analysis of the gaming industry. "They're still going to have strong performance, but not what you're seeing right now."

Maryland Live, which has 4,322 slot machines and 177 table games, has routinely enjoyed about 80 percent of Maryland's casino market share and has gained national attention for the strength of its table games.

Those table games were what drove March revenues so high as well, accounting for the entirety of the increase over March 2013, when Maryland Live drew about $44.6 million in revenues, Karmel said.

"You see that the table games are really driving the revenue increase in Maryland casinos," he said. "That's the big winner."

Of the total $77.9 million taken in by the state's casinos, more than half is tax revenue; more than $30 million goes to the state Education Trust Fund and the remainder to various state and local programs.

In the last year, Maryland Live has seen its earnings grow as it has drawn in customers who live in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Many of them were former customers of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, where revenues have shrunk, Bumazhny said.

In entering the local market first, Maryland Live has enjoyed a head start in securing loyalty and relationships in some of Maryland's most affluent "bedroom communities," Bumazhny said. But it's going to have company soon, he said.

The casino likely will experience a loss as people who live closer to Baltimore go to Horseshoe instead, and likely will lose additional customers when the MGM National Harbor casino opens south of Washington in 2016, Bumazhny said.

Maryland Live has a great location and has developed a loyal customer base, Bumazhny said, "but definitely not enough to make people want to drive another half-hour or hour."

In addition to Maryland Live's huge March take, Hollywood Casino Perryville pulled in about $7.9 million; Casino at Ocean Downs generated about $4.2 million; and Rocky Gap Casino Resort took in about $4 million.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun