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February casino revenue is second-best ever

Maryland’s three casinos combined to generate more than $47.7 million in February, the second-best total in the state gambling industry’s two-and-a-half-year history.

Hollywood Casino in Perryville is the first gaming facility in Maryland to offer table games following the recent approval of gaming expansion. That facility saw revenue decrease more than 48 percent year-over-year in February.

As usual, the much larger and more popular Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall — owned by the Cordish Cos. — outpaced its competitors, generating $38.3 million in the shortest month of the year, according to data released Tuesday by the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Maryland Live kept just 33 percent of that total — less than $12.7 million — but that amount accounts for 80 percent of the money casino operators kept last month.

The casino, with capacity for 4,750 slot machines, had its big month despite operating less than 4,000 of those machines in February. Maryland Live, like the state’s other casinos, is doing some remodeling to make room for blackjack, roulette and poker tables — forcing many slot machines off the gambling floor.

Maryland voters approved table games after the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley agreed to expand gambling in an August special session of the legislature. A spokeswoman for the casino said when the work is finished in mid-April, Maryland Live plans to operate 4,332 slots and 122 table games, with another 50 poker tables coming this summer.

While Maryland Live enjoyed another banner month, Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County — Maryland’s first casino — saw revenue decrease more than 48 percent year-over-year. The facility, which won approval last month to remove about 400 slot machines, generated $5.6 million in February.

Hollywood, owned by Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming Inc., has blamed its steadily declining revenue on Maryland Live, slightly more than 50 miles south of the Perryville facility.

The business impact has been greater than initially expected by state fiscal analysts and lottery officials, which anticipated an initial 20 percent dip in Hollywood’s business that would eventually stabilize. Instead of stabilizing, however, the year-over-year deficit has deepened.

Meanwhile, Penn is mulling making a bid for a casino license in Prince George’s County, where the gambling company already owns Rosecroft Raceway, once the top candidate for slots in the county.

That’s changed, as Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International Inc. has entered into an agreement with Virginia-based developer the Peterson Cos. to build a resort casino at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, pending award of a slots license from state gambling regulators. If Penn were to enter a bid and win, it would have to relinquish its license in Cecil County. The award could come as soon as December.

Maryland’s smallest commercial gambling facility, The Casino at Ocean Downs in Worcester County, generated almost $3.47 million from its 800 slot machines in February. Because of its proximity to Ocean City, that casino depends heavily on tourists and tends to suffer during the winter months. February 2013 was a little worse for the slots parlor than February 2012 — revenue decreased less than 1.7 percent year-over-year.

Ocean Downs is the only Maryland casino not poised to operate table games. The small facility, attached to a horse racing track, has to expand its square footage to make room for a modest number of tables and dealers. That expansion could happen this summer.

Almost half of all casino money goes to the state Education Trust Fund, which received a deposit of $23.5 million last month. The rest is divided between funds for minority-owned businesses, local grants and the horse racing industry.