Sleepless in the casino: Maryland Live begins 24/7 operations

It’s nearly 4 a.m. on a Friday morning. The B-52’s Love Shack is blaring over the sound system. Scantily clad waitresses walk by carrying platters of martinis and beers. Musical melodies made by slot machines mingle with the muffled murmurs of many a mesmerized gambler.

This is the first night Maryland Live casino is operating 24/7, and business seems fine, judging by the hundreds of bleary-eyed people still pulling levers and pushing buttons on various gaming machines.

The ability of casinos to operate around the clock was one of several key provisions of Question 7, which voters approved in the November elections.

As it happens, casino operators say running 24/7 doesn’t pose any challenge they’re not used to.  Maryland Live president Robert Norton says it’s more unusual not to operate 24/7.

“Not staying open is the abnormal behavior,” Norton said in an interview in the pre-dawn hours. “So really, nothing challenging or unexpected for us.”

Norton estimates that at what would normally be closing time early Friday morning — 2 a.m. — there were about 1,000 customers, and by 6 a.m., there were still about 400. A bouncer at the front door said the bulk of the late night crowd cleared out around 3:30 a.m.

Norton says the early morning hours work well for people who work the late shift, or who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to come during normal hours.

Most of the restaurants in the casino close at night, although the bars and the Phillips Seafood restaurant stay open.

The previous morning at 8 a.m., Norton had unlocked the doors of the casino for the last time. The casino is now open all day every day of the year, holidays included.

Maryland Live says it’s hiring 1,200 new employees as a result of Question 7. Of these, 800 will be dealers for 150 table games, soon to be added. And 150 new jobs will be related to staying open all night.

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