Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Maryland Live thrives as Perryville struggles

In one corner of the Maryland casino landscape is Maryland Live at Arundel Mills mall, where crowds on Fridays and Saturdays are so large that a seat cannot be found in front of any of the casino’s 3,200 slot machines.

But in another corner, more than 50 miles north on Interstate 95 in Cecil County, the marketing staff at the Hollywood Casino Perryville is desperately trying to turn around what is all but assured to become two straight months of declining revenue at the state’s first casino.

“Obviously, the competition is having an effect on us,” said Marc DeLeo, Hollywood’s marketing director.

Robert J. Norton, Maryland Live’s general manager, said Thursday that business at the state’s newest — and largest — casino in Hanover has not slowed since it opened on the evening of June 6. The casino generated more than $28 million in less than one full month of operation, and July’s numbers are expected to exceed $30 million.

But at Hollywood Casino Perryville, daily revenue has declined 25.7 percent since Maryland Live’s opening. The casino, with 1,500 slot machines, is expected to generate about 9 percent less revenue this month than it did in July 2011.

The revenue figures were presented to the state Lottery Commission Thursday at the Maryland State Lottery Agency’s headquarters in Baltimore.

The meeting took place as Gov. Martin O’Malley appears poised to call a special session of the General Assembly that could put another casino in Maryland, in Prince George’s County.

David S. Cordish, chairman of Maryland Live developer The Cordish Cos., has argued that a casino south of Hanover would eat into his facility’s revenue at an even greater rate than Maryland Live is impacting Hollywood.

But for now, the casino at Arundel Mills is seeing more business than it can handle.

“We actually are feeling a major pinch on the weekend,” Norton said.

Thursday evening’s unveiling of 531 more electronic gambling games and an additional bar ought to help. Lottery officials spent the last several days testing the machines, which include electronic table games and slot machines, and finished those tests Thursday afternoon. By the fall, Maryland Live will operate 4,750 slot machines, the most allowed by Maryland law.

Meanwhile, Perryville is trying to stop the bleeding. DeLeo said the casino is remodeling its restaurant, which was a buffet, into a live music and sports bar-like venue. Hollywood intends to book entertainment every Saturday night, and use large television screens to lure Ravens football fans on Sundays during the NFL season.

“We’re trying to get some younger folks in there,” DeLeo said. The revamped restaurant is expected to open Aug. 8, and a grand opening is slated for Aug. 25, he said.

It remains to be seen if Hollywood, which is operated by Penn National Gaming Inc., can recoup its market share from Maryland Live, which could be booking live acts of its own within the next month.

Penn’s future stake in the Perryville casino is also unclear, as the Pennsylvania-based operator has demanded the opportunity to bid for a Prince George’s County slots license, if such a license is approved by the legislature and Maryland voters.

Penn, which owns Rosecroft Raceway, wants to build a $500 million slots facility there. But Maryland law does not allow businesses to operate more than one casino in the state.

Penn executives told a state work group in June that they would consider shedding the Cecil County license in exchange for the chance to operate under the Prince George’s license, which presumably would allow a greater number of slot machines on the premises.

Meanwhile, untouched by Maryland Live’s footprint, The Casino at Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore is poised to have a strong July, General Manager Joe Cavilla said Thursday.

The state’s smallest facility, with just 800 slot machines, is likely to see a 7 percent to 8 percent increase in revenue over July 2011, Cavilla said. Summer months have been significantly more lucrative for the resort-area casino than fall, winter and spring.

“Summer is really make or break for us,” Cavilla said.

Evitts Resort LLC, which will operate an 850-slot facility at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort, is expected to begin construction in mid-August and could open its slots parlor by June or July of 2013.

The only state license not yet awarded is for a facility in South Baltimore. CBAC Gaming LLC, a group led by Caesars Entertainment Corp., could be licensed when the Video Lottery Terminal Location Commission meets Tuesday.