A shiny new hotel tower is opening at the Live Casino in Hanover, adding to the amenities and helping the venue compete. (Jay Reed / Baltimore Sun video)
With 17 floors of plush rooms, the new Live Hotel built to complement the Live Casino in Hanover offers a towering glass spectacle from the outside and a glamorous tableau inside.
David S. Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Companies, the private Baltimore-based development firm that built it and owns the casino complex on the grounds of Arundel Mills Mall, called it “fun.”
He also sees the hotel, opening Wednesday on the sixth anniversary of the casino’s launch, as crucial for the suburban complex to compete with the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore 12 miles to the north and the MGM National Harbor hotel and casino 35 miles to the south on the border of Washington, D.C. in Prince George’s County.
“In gaming, everyone plays blackjack the same way, they all have the same odds, everyone has a roulette wheel,” Cordish said Friday as he walked the casino floor that exceeds the length of three football fields. “The difference is what’s around it.”
To Cordish that means continually making big bets —the casino recently opened a room with slots, table games, a bar and a fire pit that is open to the outside allowing cigarette and cigar smoking. There are several shops and eateries on the sidelines of the casino and hotel. And thousands of free garage and surface parking spaces are available or in the works all around the complex, made possible when Cordish cemented a long-term lease with the mall for more acreage and moved a ring road around the property.
Inside the complex, a spa is under construction, as is a 1,500-person concert and event hall that will open shortly. It will be expanded to 4,000 seats by the beginning of next year. Cordish expects it to be used for concerts, corporate events and weddings, and he plans to make it available for free for school graduations. (Anne Arundel County did grant the project $36 million in tax breaks in exchange for building the larger events venue.)
As Live Casino & Hotel marks its fifth anniversary on Tuesday, the casino formerly known as Maryland Live is in a state of transition, building a new hotel and fighting to keep customers against big-brand rivals.
But the linchpin may be the $200 million hotel, the county’s tallest building. It’s adorned with art that Cordish and his wife Suzi have collected from around the world (including a Warhol) and bathrooms bigger than many people’s bedrooms (think soaker tub).
It’s all about keeping people on the property and enjoying themselves, “and it would be good if they gambled too,” Cordish said.
Cordish said more than a million people have signed up for the casino’s rewards program, earning perks for playing even nominal amounts. Up to 75 or 80 percent of the hotel’s 310 rooms will be available to the casino’s best patrons, though Cordish expects other gamblers, eventgoers and tourists will book too.
Regulars travel from neighboring communities, but also from Virginia and Delaware and beyond, he said. Until now, Cordish had been shuttling patrons to a nearby hotel he bought and named Live Lofts. The new hotel just a short elevator ride away from the casino floor means he won’t be “operating with one arm tied behind my back.”
The MGM opened in December 2017 with a 308-room hotel and thousands more nearby, siphoning business from the Live Casino. As expected, Live Casino reported months of revenue declines as MGM became the state’s largest casino by revenue.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency records show MGM had nearly $609 million in revenue last year, compared to $545 million for Live Casino.
But Live is rebounding, even as MGM continues to grow. State records show April revenue at the Live Casino was up 3.3 percent to $46.8 million, including slot machines and table games. MGM’s April revenue was up 15.6 percent to $57.7 million.
Cordish said Live’s May revenue, not yet reported, will be up far more.
A state consultant predicted in 2013 that MGM would take 23 percent of Live’s revenue, but it’s not turned out to be that significant, said Alan Woinski, whose Gaming USA Corp. publishes industry newsletters.
He said MGM did take away Live Casino’s monopoly on the Virginia market, but Live has a lot of advantages including easy access from the highway, plenty of parking and a built-in customer base with mall customers. And there is still room for expansion, Woinski said.
“Until Virginia gets its own casino gambling, and it is coming eventually, the market is quite deep for MGM and Live to divide up,” he said.
University of Maryland professor Stephen McDaniel, who studies sports and entertainment marketing, said the hotel and other amenities will be necessary. MGM bills itself as a “resort” with luxury hotel rooms and venues that have booked Cher, he said.
“You have to bring people onto the property with concerts and meetings and conventions,” McDaniel said. “In many ways Vegas has been able to weather the expansion of legal gambling better than Atlantic City because it’s a convention destination.”
Cordish already operates entertainment complexes, including concert halls, and Live should be able to compete when it has its own arena and hotel rooms, he said. Also, Live will be better able to reward good customers with opulent rooms and other perks.