Maryland Live Casino

Maryland Live Casino now has its full complement of slot machines -- 4,750 of them. (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox / September 12, 2012)

David Cordish refused to talk politics Wednesday at a celebration of the now-complete Maryland Live Casino.

The casino just added its final complement of slot machines — 1,304 — for a total of 4,750, making it the nation's third-largest commercial casino.

Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., which owns and built the three-month-old casino next to Arundel Mills mall, touted the facility as one of the best in the country and said it would be the Mid-Atlantic's dominant gambling parlor for years to come.

But Cordish would not talk about Question 7, a referendum to expand gambling facing Maryland voters in November. The measure would allow table games in addition to slots at casinos, and would also grant a license for a new casino in Prince George's County.

That project, backed by gaming giant MGM and slated for National Harbor — a development south of Washington on the Potomac — has spurred unprecedented spending on a Maryland statewide campaign.

Casino operator Penn National Gaming has spent $9.5 million to fight the proposed facility, which would draw business from its properties, including the Hollywood casinos in Cecil County and West Virginia and a racetrack in Rosecroft.

For their part, supporters of the National Harbor project have spent almost $6 million to support the referendum.

Cordish has not entered the advertising fray. Should Question 7 pass, Maryland Live would pay a lower tax rate, a concession that has kept his company on the sidelines in the ad battle.

"Those spending numbers are public, and you've seen what we've done so far," said Joseph Weinberg, gaming president and managing partner at the Cordish Cos. "We'll continue to watch the situation, but our position is pretty clear right now. We're happy with what we have."

Maryland Live, which opened June 6, accounted for more than 70 percent of all casino revenues in Maryland during June, July and August, generating nearly $96.5 million.

"We've been the dominant casino in this part of the country," Cordish said. "And we'll continue to be the dominant casino in this part of the country. Of that I am positive."

Cordish — who said that Wednesday's event was one of the most memorable of his career — added that Maryland Live's location near major highways and the mall will help the casino remain the most popular in Maryland, even if the National Harbor project or a casino proposed for downtown Baltimore come to fruition.

He said, too, that he doubted those facilities would match his project in terms of amenities.

The 500-seat Rams Head Center Stage theater is open now at Maryland Live. A Prime Rib restaurant still is under construction but should open in eight weeks, Cordish said. Already in business are a restaurant selling burgers designed by chef Bobby Flay, as well as a Cheesecake Factory outlet and a Phillips Seafood restaurant.

"To bring all of this together in one place, the retail and the restaurant space and the stage, you'd have to go to the best of the best in Vegas," Cordish said.

chris.korman@baltsun.com

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