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Black jack, poker OK’d at Hollywood Casino

The first games of black jack, poker and roulette will be played at Hollywood Casino Perryville on Wednesday.

The casino in Perryville is Maryland’s first commercial gambling site to offer such games, just under two-and-a-half years after it became the first commercial slots parlor in the state.

The final regulatory hurdle was overcome Wednesday when Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director Stephen L. Martino signed the operations license that authorizes the games. A General Assembly committee last week approved game regulations that the Lottery submitted in January.

“We believe the casino is prepared to open table games to the public,” Martino said in a statement. Controls, policies and staff were tested Tuesday night.

Hollywood is the first Maryland casino to offer table games to gamblers, even though its parent company, Penn National Gaming Inc., spent more than $40 million last year trying to convince Marylanders to vote against expanding gambling in the state. Legislation approved by state lawmakers in August authorized a referendum on table games, but also allowed voters to decide whether a casino should be built in Prince George’s County.

Penn’s opposition was based entirely on that new casino, which the company felt it wouldn’t have a fair chance to bid on. Absent the rights to that facility, Penn feared business at another property — Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia — would suffer.

Penn may still bid on the Prince George’s license, but a facility in the southern part of that county is unlikely to open before 2016. In the meantime, Hollywood Casino Perryville has a head-start on attracting black jack and poker players. Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall won’t start operating the games until next month.

“We are very excited to be competitive in the market, and have all the offerings of a full casino,” Jennifer Miglionico, the casino’s director of marketing, said in a statement. “With the addition of table games we are now the whole package with the newest, hottest slots, our wonderful Celebrity Bar & Grill restaurant and free live entertainment every weekend.”

The casino, just off Interstate 95 in Cecil County, will have 12 tables on its main gambling floor — including poker, black jack, roulette and craps — and will have eight more poker tables in a separate poker room. Casino executives say they hired more than 100 people to run the games and oversee 24-hour operations at the casino on weekends, which began in December.