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Md. casino revenue down 7 percent in August

Maryland slots revenue fell about 7 percent from July to August, as all three of the state’s casinos experienced slowdowns in business after a record-setting summer for the 2-year-old industry.

Maryland Live Casino, the state’s largest, saw its gross revenue drop to $281.60 per machine in August, down from July’s average of $351.54 per machine per day.

The casinos — in Anne Arundel County, Cecil County and Worcester County — combined to generate $44.6 million in August, still the program’s third-highest revenue total since Hollywood Casino Perryville opened in 2010.

But without revenue from the Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall, which opened in June, August slots revenue would have dropped 7 percent year-over-year.

A strong start by Maryland Live and comparatively strong seasonal business at The Casino at Ocean Downs had propelled state slots revenue to consecutive record months in June and July.

But after generating $35.4 million in July, Maryland Live saw revenue of $32.4 million in August, according to data released Wednesday by the Maryland State Lottery Agency.

The drop came despite Maryland’s largest casino operating more than 3,700 machines for the full month. The casino in Hanover operated just under 3,200 slots for much of July, when gross revenue was $351.54 per day, per machine. Daily per-machine revenue dropped to $281.60 in August.

Maryland Live officials did not respond to a request for comment.

At a meeting of the Maryland State Lottery Commission last month, owners of the state’s other two casinos blamed much of their revenue loss to the allure of Maryland Live. But while Perryville has been hard-hit from the start — its August revenue, $6.5 million, was down 24 percent year-over-year — the Ocean Downs casino in Berlin had been insulated.

That changed in August, as The Casino at Ocean Downs saw a small dip in revenue, which fell to $5.67 million compared to $5.75 million in July. The casino, which depends upon seasonal vacationers, still saw a year-over-year increase of 24 percent.

Through a spokesman, Ocean Downs management declined to comment on the revenue numbers.

Bill Hayles, vice president and general manager of Hollywood Casino Perryville, said he was disappointed “that we continue to see a downward trend from a year ago since the open of Maryland Live,” but added that the year-over-year decrease was smaller than it was in July, when the casino generated 32.4 percent less revenue than it did in July 2011.

The casino has attempted to bolster patronage by renovating and rebranding what was previously a small food court into the Celebrity Bar and Grill restaurant, a change Hayles especially hoped would help during Baltimore Ravens games, when the casino tended to turn into a ghost town.

The across-the-board casino revenue decrease comes two months before Maryland voters will decide whether to allow table games at every licensed gambling facility and authorize the construction and operation of another casino, the state’s sixth, to be built in Prince George’s County at either National Harbor near Oxon Hill or Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.

Two other Maryland casinos — the proposed Harrah’s Baltimore to be operated by Caesars Entertainment Corp.-led CBAC Gaming LLC and a small slots parlor at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Allegany County to be operated by Evitts Resort LLC — are both slated to open within the next 20 months.

Casino companies have aligned on either side of the ballot question, with Penn National Gaming Inc. — the owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville — already spending $5.5 million to oppose the expanded gambling legislation passed by the General Assembly last month after a summer of frequent politicking and often contentious debate. Penn National’s ballot issue committee is called Get the Facts – Vote No on 7. The gambling question will be the seventh ballot question listed on Nov. 6.

MGM Resorts International Inc., which wants to build a destination casino at National Harbor, is propping up the other side of the debate, having donated about $2.4 million to ballot issue committee For Maryland Jobs and Schools Inc., according to elections filings.

Both companies are funding television and radio advertising already airing statewide.

If voters approve, state analysts project that Maryland casinos will be part of a $2 billion industry by fiscal 2017.

Nearly half of August’s slots revenue — $21.6 million — goes to the Education Trust Fund. About $45 million has been devoted to the fund since the start of the fiscal year in July.