Hollywood Casino in Perryville is capitalizing on being the state's sole casino operator, generating almost $11.4 million in revenue and drawing about 167,800 visitors in October, its first full month of operation, and raking in a higher take per slot machine than many competitors in surrounding states.
The Cecil County casino, which houses 1,500 slot machines, averaged $245 daily per machine last month, the Maryland Lottery reported Friday. That's slightly better than casinos just across state borders, where operators are allowed to offer poker and blackjack in addition to slots. The Perryville facility is the first of several locations where slots parlors are expected to open in Maryland.
"To see them doing so well out of the gate is a great sign," said Grant Govertsen, an analyst and partner at Las Vegas-based Union Gaming Group, which had projected daily revenue of $180 per machine at Hollywood Casino Perryville for the October-to-December fourth quarter. "A $200 win per day is a sweet spot that casino operators shoot for."
The Perryville casino has become the "temporary monopoly" in Maryland, Govertsen said.
It posted an even higher average daily take — nearly $346 per machine — during its grand opening and first four days of operation in September. Gambling analysts said that a strong early showing was not surprising because new casinos typically draw large crowds.
Himbert Sinopoli, general manager of the Perryville facility, said the casino's October revenue is in line with expectations, and he noted that the fourth quarter is generally a slow period in the industry. Sinopoli said the casino has seen a mix of repeat customers and new clients — mostly from Maryland. Other gamblers are coming from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and even New Jersey, he said.
"Business is really consistent in how a normal casino operation would be at this point," Sinopoli said.
Besides Perryville, a casino at Ocean Downs racetrack on the Eastern Shore is the only other Maryland facility close to opening, scheduled to do so next month. A slots parlor next to Arundel Mills mall, to be built by Baltimore developer Cordish Cos., could be months away.
Nearby states, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, have more developed gambling industries and have expanded to include table games.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, which operates nearly 5,000 slot machines, averaged $227 daily per slot machine during the 12 months through June, according to Govertsen. Perryville and Charles Town, which is considered one of the best-performing casinos in the country, are owned by Penn National Gaming Inc.
Three Delaware racetracks that operate about 6,900 slot machines generated about $223 daily per machine in October, according to the Delaware Lottery. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania casinos with nearly 27,000 slot machines generated nearly $237 daily per machine last month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
The largest casino planned for Maryland, expected to have 4,750 slot machines, will move forward after voters approved a ballot measure this week to allow it at Arundel Mills. David Cordish, chairman of the Baltimore development firm, said he plans to expedite the casino with a temporary site that would likely hold about 2,000 slot machines and could begin operating in five months. A permanent casino is expected to open sometime in 2012.
Plans for a slots parlor in Baltimore are entangled in legal challenges. And the state has been unable to identify an acceptable bidder to operate a slots parlor at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland.
So the competition has yet to heat up within Maryland's borders.
"The longer Baltimore City and Arundel stays on the sideline, it definitely benefits Penn National," Govertsen said.
When the Anne Arundel casino opens, it will siphon some customers away from Perryville, but "Penn is a very, very savvy operator and I would be willing to bet that they certainly would do a better job finding marketing tools and retaining gaming customers," he said.
The Perryville casino's take per slot machine is higher than the state's projection of $210 per day, arrived at in a 2007 study. State and local government officials are closely watching its performance because slots revenue is needed to fill budget gaps.
Since its Sept. 27 opening, the Perryville casino has generated a total of $13.5 million. The casino receives 33 percent of the revenue, while the rest is divided among various state and local entities.
Nearly 50 percent — or $6.5 million — has gone to the state's education trust fund. Slots proceeds also benefit a horse racing purse account, a fund to improve the state's racetracks, the Maryland Lottery, Perryville, Cecil County and small, minority- and women-owned businesses.
Maryland banned slot machine gambling in the 1960s and supporters have tried to resurrect it in recent years. Slots supporters won a 2008 referendum to approve slots at five locations in the state, which were expected to bring in more than $600 million annually for the state budget.
Govertsen, the gambling analyst, said he would not be surprised if Perryville's daily revenue in November falls to around $200 per machine, which would still be a good target going forward.
"If that's the case, it would outperform Wall Street's expectation for that property," he said.