Maryland Live to open poker room in time for Labor Day weekend

The casino-ization of Maryland continues.

The state's Lottery and Gaming Control Commission approved Maryland Live's request to open a new two-story, 52-table poker room in time for Labor Day during its meeting Thursday. Members of the group also heard details about the process being used to award a license to build and operate a casino in Prince George's county, which should be completed by the end of the year. They also cleared the way for Caesars to continue developing the Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street near downtown Baltimore.


A 14,800-square-foot addition is being built onto the side of Maryland Live, already one of the East Coast's largest and most profitable gaming destinations. The Cordish Cos. plans to have the project completed and new dealers in place -- about 100 are in training now -- in time for a controlled demonstration before the state's lottery and gaming agency on Aug. 26. The new poker room would open to the public Aug. 28.

"Game limits and spreads are still pending approval, but we are planning to offer a full array of games to accommodate every level of player from the casual player to big games," said Mike Smith, the casino's director of poker, in a news release. "We will offer a comfortable, well-managed, state-of-the-art Poker Room with a terrific staff and a variety of games and limits to please everyone."


Maryland Live's dominance in the state will not be challenged by a Prince George's casino until 2016 at the earliest -- state law stipulates it cannot open until then -- but the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission continues moving toward selecting one of three proposals (ranging from $700 million to $800 million). They outlined a time line at their meeting earlier this week that would set up public hearings on each possible project by mid-Fall.

"Given the publicity around this location and this RFP, the commission wants to make sure there's extensive public input," director of gaming research Jaclyn Vincent said.

The gaming commission also approved a change in licensing for the Baltimore casino that will allow primary owner Caesers to install 2,500 slot machines and 130 table games. Original plans called for 3,750 slots before the state's voters approved the introduction of table games during the November election.

Other news from Thursday's meeting:

  • Hollywood Casino Perryville general manager Bill Hayles will take the same position at Penn National's Hollywood facility in Grantville, Pa. -- outside of Hershey -- once a replacement is named. Hayles said company officials have interviewed candidates and that a decision will be made soon. He will stay for a short transition period but should be in Pennsylvania by August, he said. The Perryville casino was the state's first and made more than $12 million in March 2012 before Maryland Live open and diverted nearly half of the rural venue's customer base. "The challenge is going to be the same," Hayles said. "Whoever takes over will have to deal with more and more competition. We hope that we've balanced out and established a customer base, but there's a lot of change still on the way." Hollywood is already planning to add two poker tables -- for a total of 10 -- due to demand on weekends.
  • Increased casino gambling has cut into lottery revenues, which are down about 1.3 percent, director Stephen Martino said. The lottery returned $556 million to the state last fiscal year and will fall short of that number but should reach state projections, he said. Casino revenue will far exceed what the state had expected; all of June's revenues, expected to be more than $70 million, will be extra. The state's casinos have already made $511 million since last July, returning 67 to the state.
  • The lottery will begin a Keno promotion built around the chance to be on the field when former Ravens star Jonathan Ogden receives a Hall of Fame ring during the Nov. 24 game against the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. Other prizes, of $7,500 and $75,000, are based on the left tackle's uniform number. Ogden recently spoke during a staff meeting at the agency.