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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

For Maryland Live! first in market means best in show

8 June 2014

HANOVER, Md. -- On a Monday evening in mid-May, Maryland Live! Casino resembled the Strip on a busy weekend.

The stand-alone casino’s banks of 4,300 slot machines were packed with customers. Not all of the 177 table games were in use, but those in service were filled. The 52-table poker room had a waiting list.

There were lines at several restaurants, including the Cheesecake Factory and the Burger Palace, which is operated by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

With 250,000 square feet of casino space, Maryland Live! nearly equals the casino floors of The Venetian and Palazzo — combined.

Yet, this wasn’t the Strip or even Red Rock Resort. It was suburban Maryland, 15 miles by car from downtown Baltimore.

“Our strategy was to build the best in the market,” said Joe Weinberg, president of the Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer that in several phases spent $500 million on the casino connected to the 250-store Arundel Mills Mall.

“With 1.5 million square feet of retail attached, we’re the largest gaming entertainment complex in the world today,” Weinberg said. “And we feel like we didn’t build enough.”

Maryland Live! was first to market in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, which will house three gaming properties by 2016. It immediately blew away the competition. In 2013, Maryland Live! accounted for 78 percent of the state’s $746.9 million in gaming revenue produced by the state’s four casinos.

The casino, just off Interstate 295 — The Beltway — near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, draws customers from an area that includes northern Virginia and the Baltimore area.

The property opened in June 2012 with almost 3,200 slot machines. Another 531 games were added two months later and 1,043 more games came on line in September 2012. In April 2013, the casino was allowed to remove electronic gaming tables and add live table games. The poker room opened last August.

Weinberg said he’s not concerning himself with competition coming this summer from the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, nor with MGM National Harbor, which is two years out. Maryland Live! started building its customer base in 2012.

“We are still seeing significant growth in our revenues,” Weinberg said. “This facility is the top-grossing facility in the Atlantic region. It has higher revenues than anybody in Pennsylvania or Delaware. We built our own clientele. We were able to be first to market, which was a good opportunity.”

The casino has access to 1,400 hotel rooms in the area, and Weinberg said building its own hotel is part of the master plan, although no schedule has been set.

Cordish, which has actively been looking to build a stadium or sports arena in downtown Las Vegas, has developed several casinos over the years, including the Hard Rock near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The property is owned and operated by the Seminole Indians. The company also built and sold the Indiana Live! casino.

Cordish is also pursuing gaming opportunities elsewhere. The company is one of five bidders for a single casino license in Philadelphia, in partnership with the Parx racetrack. The casino would be near the city’s stadium complex, where the company built the Philadelphia Live! retail, dining and entertainment district.

And Cordish has partnered with Penn National Gaming to bid on a casino license in Orange County, N.Y., one of four licenses available in that state.

That coupling is somewhat ironic — Penn National unsuccessfully campaigned against Maryland Live! in a 2010 voter referendum on gaming expansion in Maryland.