Horseshoe security chief departs four months after casino opens

The new Horseshoe Casino, as seen from Russell Street near downtown Baltimore at dusk.
The new Horseshoe Casino, as seen from Russell Street near downtown Baltimore at dusk. (Al Drago / Baltimore Sun)

Anthony Barksdale, the city's former acting police commissioner, is leaving his post as Horseshoe Baltimore's security director four months after the casino opened.

The casino, which made no announcement, confirmed in a written statement that Barksdale is departing "to pursue other career opportunities" and is being replaced by John Zappas, the assistant security director.


Before arriving at Horseshoe in August, Zappas oversaw security at Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. Showboat was among three Atlantic City casinos to close in September as they struggled with competition in neighboring states.

Horseshoe, managed by debt-hobbled Caesars Entertainment Corp., faces a unique security challenge because it holds the city's only 24-7 liquor license. And its image has been tarnished by a few incidents.


There was a fight in a food court area on the first Saturday after the casino's Aug. 26 opening. A video of the incident shows security guards wearing yellow shirts rushing to break up the scuffle, which occurred in the line for a pizza restaurant, around 3 a.m.

A New Year's Day disturbance also was captured on video at about 2:30 a.m. It was a "short altercation that was immediately diffused by security," said Noah Hirsch, the casino's vice president of marketing. He said it involved three people who "were escorted off the property." No arrests were made and no one was hurt.

For November, the last month for which figures are available from the state's casino compliance unit, Horseshoe reported 25 incidents, including eight "physical altercations" and eight thefts or robberies. The fights led to three arrests and nine reported evictions.

The prior month, 36 incidents were reported, including seven fights, 13 thefts or robberies and 15 evictions for being "too intoxicated," according to online state records.

Asked if Barksdale's departure was linked to the incidents, the casino referred a reporter to its prepared statement.

"Horseshoe Baltimore's senior management team thanks Tony for his service during the casino's initial operating phase and wishes him well in his future endeavors," the statement said.

Such disputes and other incidents are not unusual in the state's casinos.

Maryland Live, the stater's largest casino, reported 22 incidents, including six fights and six thefts or robberies, in November. The casino adjacent to Arundel Mills mall in Hanover reported 12 in October, including three fights and three thefts or robberies.

Because it is in downtown Baltimore, Horseshoe "is under a special microscope with regard to any sort of incidents that would make people take notice," said James Karmel, a casino analyst and history professor at Harford Community College. "It has a unique public relations challenge, in Maryland at least, by being an urban casino as opposed to a suburban casino. In order to compete with Maryland Live, it has to get middle-aged, suburban, high-disposable-income casinogoers, and these are people that are going to be especially put off."

Hirsch said the $442 million casino has hosted "in excess of a million" patrons since opening, and "I'd put our safety record up against that of any other major entertainment and sports attraction."

Horseshoe reported $22.9 million in revenue from slot machines and table games in December, down about 2 percent from November. Owing partly to stiff competition from Maryland Live, its monthly revenues are about a third less than forecast in November 2013 by a pair of state-funded consulting firms.

Maryland Live reported revenue of $50.2 million, down about 6.6 percent from the previous month and down 4.4 percent from December 2013.


After months of gains, overall revenue of the state's five casinos dropped to $85.6 million in December from $90.2 million the previous month. Minus the Horseshoe, the four other casinos have seen revenue slip 3.6 percent compared to the same month last year.

Barksdale, who could not be reached for comment, was hired by Horseshoe after 20 years with the Police Department. In 2007, he became the youngest deputy commissioner in the agency's history at age 35.

When Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III retired in 2012, Barksdale became acting commissioner and was considered by some to be a front-runner for the post. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instead chose California law enforcement veteran Anthony W. Batts, and Barksdale, who has suffered from heart problems, went on medical leave before Batts arrived.

The state shares responsibility for the casinos' security.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency'a casino compliance unit compiles incidents, including fights, thefts and robberies, drug problems and underage or unauthorized gambling. Casino fights and other incidents are described briefly in monthly reports.

"Security, surveillance and compliance teams from both the casinos and the MLGCA are on site 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week to enable patrons to enjoy a venue that is not only entertaining and enjoyable but also safe and secure," agency director Stephen Martino said Monday in a prepared statement.


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