Forget the presents and cake — the Hollywood Casino Perryville, which will mark its first anniversary this Tuesday, plans to celebrate with a huge giveaway.
But the casino's first year hasn't been all sweet, even though its slot machines attracted some $1 billion in action from gamblers and have produced a $101 million-plus windfall for owner Penn National Gaming, the state of Maryland and the state's ailing horse racing industry.
There has been continuous squabbling in Cecil County about how the local share of casino revenue will be divided between the county and the Town of Perryville, to the point where not one dollar has been allocated or spent by either in the 12 months the casino has been open.
And in Perryville, where the town government made a concerted effort to welcome the casino, an uproar continues among residents about the casino's efforts to erect a 175-high illuminated sign along I-95 that will be visible from many of their homes.
But there's also been a big positive economic impact to the community around the casino, which has some 400 full- and part-time employees, most of whom were hired from Cecil and Harford counties, according to Penn National Gaming.
Very high profile
Since opening on Sept. 27, 2010 near the Route 222/I-95 interchange, Maryland's first licensed public slots venue since the 1960s has been one of the most talked about businesses in Harford and Cecil counties, if not the most visited.
During its first four days of operation, the casino made more than $2 million in revenue, according to the Maryland State Lottery. During its first month, each of the 1,500 slot machines brought in, on average, $346 per day, more than the state's projected average of $210 per machine per day.
More recently, the casino's slots have been averaging $212.51 per day in revenue, according to Cecil County budget manager Craig Whiteford, quite a decline from what might be considered its honeymoon period but still within the realm of what was predicted.
"My expectation based on that is that it [the casino] performed better than expected," Whiteford said, referring to meeting the state's expectations.
Through August, according to its owner, Hollywood Casino Perryville has generated about $101 million in gross gaming revenue. That figure is likely to climb to about $110 million by the time the casino celebrates its first birthday Tuesday.
Marc DeLeo, director of marketing for Hollywood Casino Perryville, said his company, Penn National Gaming, which owns a number of casinos and race tracks, is satisfied with Perryville's performance.
"From our standpoint, we feel we've exceeded the company's expectations," DeLeo said of the casino's first year.
So far the casino has gotten good feedback from its guests, DeLeo added, noting they did make some tweaks early on after listening to people's comments.
He more denominations for the slot machines — 25 cents and $1 — were added and the pricing of some of the food outlets were changed. The big thing, he went on, was the ability to comp customers for drinks and food through loyalty programs.
"When [people] play at slots they can earn comps, like, at the restaurant or bar," DeLeo said. "It makes you feel like you're getting more for your money."
For the big first anniversary, DeLeo said the casino will be holding a giveaway at 11 p.m. Saturday. The prizes up for grabs: a Chrysler 300 or $20,000 in cash. Whoever wins has the choice of either prize.
The casino hopes to continue these sort of promotions during its second year, as well as continue their "great customer service," DeLeo said.
Local share squabble