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Maryland Live back on top in state casino revenue

Maryland Live, which lost its position in January as the state's top revenue-producing casino, leapfrogged the 3-month-old MGM National Harbor last month to regain the No. 1 spot.

Maryland Live, battling to retain its market share, generated $46.2 million from slot machines and table games in February, according to figures released Monday by the state Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. That compared to $45.7 million for MGM National Harbor, which opened in December to capacity crowds.

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Maryland Live's advantage is partly slots-driven. It has more machines than its Prince George's County rival — 3,941 to 3,212 — and recorded slightly higher gross gaming revenue per unit, a measure of what the casino shares with the state after players collect their winnings.

Maryland Live and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore expected to see declines as the state's gaming market absorbed the large new competitor on the Potomac River across from Virginia.

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Maryland Live's February revenue was down 14.3 percent compared to the same month a year earlier. But that decline was less steep than state consultants had forecast and did not prevent the casino from regaining the top position.

"We're here to compete," said Robert Norton, president of Maryland Live, which is next to Arundel Mills mall and is owned by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. "We have built a very loyal customer base that appreciates our family approach to service."

Maryland Live plans to open a $200 million hotel at the casino within a year.

Horseshoe reported revenue of $22 million, down 11.9 percent from February 2016.

In January, the $1.4 billion MGM generated $48.8 million, making it the state's top money maker by nearly $5 million. That was the casino's first full month, and its February figures were not as high. MGM had no immediate comment on the latest numbers.

"It's a tough thing to handicap," said Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA Corp., which publishes industry newsletters.

Typically, Woinski said, casinos perform well in their first few months when they remain a novelty, he said, "and then after that some people start going back to the other one. It kind of balances itself out."

"I like Maryland Live's access right off the highway," Woinski said. "I don't know why everybody counts out Maryland Live. There's probably enough business to go around."

MGM National Harbor had predicted that its presence would expand the market, and it has. Overall, the state's six casinos collected $128.7 million in revenue during February — an increase of $35.4 million, or 38 percent, compared to February 2016.

The state receives a significant portion of casino revenue, which goes to support the Education Trust Fund, the state's horse racing industry, host communities, and initiatives for small, and minority- and women-owned businesses.

Maryland's other casinos reported mixed results during the month.

Hollywood Casino Perryville generated $6.2 million, down 4.6 percent. Revenue at Rocky Gap Casino Resort increased 13.9 percent to $4.3 million, while the slots-only Ocean Downs casino reported $4.0 million in revenue, an increase of 3.5 percent.

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