A siren sounded loudly Friday inside the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, jolting reporters getting a first peek at the vast, $442 million development featuring more than 100 table games and 2,500 slot machines, including machines on outside terraces to accommodate smokers.
After the Aug. 26 opening, a shrieking alert might indicate a jackpot. This one was part of a fire-alarm test at the casino, Maryland's fifth.
"The joys of building and testing," said general manager Chad Barnhill with a smile as the siren continued to wail.
Barnhill was among the tour guides at the Caesars-operated casino, which features plenty of natural light, views of M&T Bank Stadium, a two-story video wall, a 25-table poker room, three restaurants and a "marketplace" with familiar Baltimore brands. A brick facade and street lamps mimic the city's look.
Some gamblers might be surprised that they can play slots — and smoke — on seven outdoor terraces equipped with machines. Two other terraces do not feature machines.
On Friday, rows of slots were lined up, but not yet operational, on a balcony overlooking Russell Street. The stadium is visible from vantage points inside the casino.
Casino patrons and Ravens fans will share some parking. Ravens season-ticket holders were invited to purchase parking in the casino's 3,300-space complex. The garage's third deck offers direct access to the casino.
Horseshoe, which says it holds the city's only 24-hour-a-day liquor license, bills itself as Maryland's only casino with outdoor gambling. The outdoor balconies will remain accessible even when the weather turns cold.
"It functions 24-7. We do have heaters planned for out there," Barnhill said. "It's moving in the direction where there's a customer base that would prefer a smoking environment. Where appropriate and allowed by law, we're moving in that direction to be able to provide amenities to all those guests as well."
On Friday, ladders and cables littered the floor. Many slots had a document taped to the front labeled "Game Installation Checklist."
The document included such items as "Install Cash Box," "10 Coin test," "Reel Rewards Test" and "Supervisor Verification."
"Game up for play" was the last item on the list.
Barnhill said the casino was far enough along that it "could open tomorrow" if need be. It will have a pair of controlled demonstrations to benefit charity on Monday and Thursday before opening the night of Aug. 26.