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Revenues from state casinos decline for third straight month

Have Maryland casino revenues stabilized?

Three months after generating a record $90.2 million, Maryland's casinos saw combined revenues decrease in February for the third straight month, according to data released Thursday by state gambling regulators.

The combined revenue of $82.8 million last month was the lowest since September.

Casino operators told a meeting of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission on Feb. 26 that weather was a factor in recent declines. February was one of the coldest months on record and the East Coast was hit by a storm on the weekend of Feb. 21.

But analysts have questioned whether the market has become saturated even as construction began recently on the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor resort casino, scheduled to open in 2016.

Three of the state's five casinos — Maryland Live, Hollywood Casino Perryville and Ocean Downs — reported declines from the same month a year earlier. Perryville recorded the steepest decrease in February, down 14.7 percent, to $6 million. Revenue at Maryland Live fell 10.2 percent, to $47 million, and Ocean Downs dropped 4.9 percent, to $3.3 million.

Rocky Gap was the only casino to record a revenue increase from February 2014 — up 11.7 percent, to $3.5 million.

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which opened in August, generated $23 million in revenue last month, almost the same as in January and December.

Buoyed by the addition of the Horseshoe, overall Maryland casino revenue is up by $16.8 million, or 25.4 percent, from a year a earlier. But, minus the Horseshoe, the other four casinos saw revenues fall $6.2 million, or 9.4 percent.

Maryland Live and the Horseshoe recently won state approval to eliminate 300 slot machines each and add more profitable table games. A state consultant said the shifts are expected to improve the casinos' bottom lines long term, though Maryland Live could take a short-term financial hit. Maryland Live said it disagreed that there would be any negative impact.

Through a spokeswoman, Maryland Live reiterated Thursday that the casino believes weather was a factor in February's revenue drop from a year earlier. Horseshoe officials could not be reached for comment.

Under state regulations, casino operators keep 80 percent of the proceeds from table games and about 33 percent from slot machines. The rest goes to the state to help fund education, subsidies for the horse industry and other programs.

jebarker@baltsun.com

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