Center Stage will be Maryland Live's "main vehicle" for bringing in younger consumers, according to Mario Maesano, vice president of marketing for Maryland Live. He says the venue will host theme nights, DJ sets and local cover bands seven days a week starting in August. There are plans to feature national headlining acts one or two times a month, as well. "We're looking hard for '80s and '90s acts, as well as classic rock and hard-rock acts," Maesano said.
Mark Mangold, talent buyer for Rams Head Center Stage, says the 500-person capacity Center Stage cannot accomodate many of the A-list acts Atlantic City typically gets. The Borgata, a $1.1 billion resort with a 161,000 square-foot casino floor, has hosted concerts by Pearl Jam and Kelly Clarkson in its 2,400-seat Event Center. "We're open to anything and we're not targeting any [demographic] specifically," Mangold said. "But with the size of the space, it's not going to be the Borgata."
David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says table games are "somewhat important" because they drive in the type of customer who's going to spend more time gambling. But he says slots are now catering to younger crowds.
"If you look, a lot of the games' themes skew a lot younger, like 'The Hangover' and 'Lord of the Rings,'" Schwartz said. "You're not going to see a lot of people in their 20s playing [the classic] Red, White and Blue slot machines."
Table games could add 10-20 percent total gaming win, based on the experiences of other states, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno. But could table games draw droves of young people to Maryland casinos?
"Having table games creates [a] much better atmosphere than slots-only casinos, but it's hard to say that it could be substantially transformative in attracting a younger clientele," Eadington wrote in an email.
Norton is confident Maryland Live's "e-games" — which he says use the same card decks, dice, roulette wheels and more that you'd find at live games, just electronically — will change the minds of skeptics.
"Anybody that comes here that wants to play a traditional craps or blackjack game is going to see the excitement they're used to having," he said. "It just won't be in the same form. Some people will love that and [for] some people, it will take some time to grow to love it."
Cheryl Johnson, a 24-year-old from Mount Washington, may fall in the latter. She typically travels to Atlantic City once per year and twice per year to Delaware Park to gamble. She's never been to a Maryland casino, but that will likely change when Maryland Live opens.
"I've never really played anything but table games, so I wouldn't know what to do with the slot machines," Johnson said. "But I'm not opposed. When things like this open up, I'm definitely trying to check it out. There's nothing like that around here."
If you go
Maryland Live is the state's newest casino, but Perryville's Hollywood Casino and Berlin's Ocean Downs came first, both in late 2010. Here's a look at Maryland's three operating casinos:
Maryland Live Casino
Hours: 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-4 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Games to play: There are currently about 3,200 slots and electronic table games.
Getting there: About 14 miles and a 25-minute drive from Baltimore.
Information: 7200 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover. Call 443-842-7000 or go to marylandlivecasino.com.
Hollywood Casino Perryville
Hours: 8 a.m.-2 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays; 8 a.m.-4 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays
Games to play: There are 1,500 slot machines on the floor.
Getting there: About 40 miles and a 50-minute drive from Baltimore.
Information: 1201 Chesapeake Overlook Parkway, Perryville. Call 410-378-8500 or go to hollywoodcasinoperryville.com.
Hours: 8 a.m.-2 a.m., five days per week and until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Games to play: There are electronic table games and 800 slot machines, ranging form penny to $25 plays.
Getting there: About 130 miles and a three-hour drive from Baltimore.
Information: 10218 Racetrack Road in Berlin. Call 410-641-0600 or go to oceandowns.com.
With no table games, will Maryland Live Casino draw young gamblers?
High-end restaurants, concert venue among efforts to compete with Atlantic City, other destinations
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