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Table games help push Md. casino revenue to record $58M in March

Hollywood Casino Perryville enjoyed its best month since last summer after it introduced table games such as blackjack, poker and roulette in early March.

Hollywood Casino Perryville

Hollywood Casino Perryville (File photo)

By generating $9.5 million in revenue between its 1,148 slot machines and 20 table games last month, the casino in Cecil County appeared to recapture a small chunk of the business it lost when Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall opened in June.

“We are pleased with the results of our first month of operation with table games,” Hollywood General Manager Bill Hayles said in a statement. “All of our tables are open, and we hope to continue to build on our momentum.”

Hollywood had the table-game market all to itself in March, but Maryland Live is expected to begin operating more than 100 tables on Thursday. Even with the heightened competition from Hollywood last month, the facility in Hanover that operates a state-high 4,129 slot machines generated a casino-record $44 million, driving a state-record $58 million in monthly casino revenue, according to figures released by the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency on Friday.

James Karmel, a professor at Harford Community College who studies the casino gambling industry, said spirits ought to be high at Hollywood. But, in a month when the casino’s revenue still declined 35 percent year-over-year, any optimism must be tempered by the specter of Maryland Live’s entering the table-game market, he said.

“Looking at it optimistically from Perryville’s perspective, table games almost doubled their revenue,” Karmel said. “It would appear that Hollywood Perryville is making inroads in the table-games market that otherwise had been going to Delaware. In some ways, I don’t think you can really talk about Maryland Live in that same conversation yet, until they add their table games. … How much of this increased traffic is going to divert to Arundel Mills when their games are up and running?”

The month’s performance at Hollywood and Maryland Live, combined with $3.95 million generated by the Casino at Oceans Downs in Worcester County, shattered the previous monthly casino revenue record, set in July, by $10 million.

In a statement, Maryland Live General Manager Robert J. Norton said ideal circumstances led to his casino’s record month, including a March that included five full weekends and several marketing events and giveaways that were a hit. March — because it coincides with spring break and better weather — is traditionally a strong month in the casino industry, Norton said.

Most of Hollywood’s gains actually came from increased slots revenue. The facility generated $8 million from slot machines in March, more than $2 million more than it did in February. Table games accounted for about $1.5 million of the total revenue.

“That’s not unexpected,” Karmel said. “The fact that they’re also boosting up in their slots revenue … what might be happening is you have couples and groups coming. Before, their only option was Delaware or Pennsylvania [for table games]. Now, they can go to Perryville, which would logically suggest an increase in their slots traffic, too.”

Casinos keep 33 percent of slots revenue and 80 percent of table-game revenue. The rest is distributed to the state Education Trust Fund and various other accounts.

Statewide revenue is expected to continue to increase as a fourth Maryland casino at Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort opens this summer and a fifth opens on Russell Street in Baltimore. Bids to build a sixth, somewhere in southern Prince George’s County, are due in May.

When the General Assembly convened a special session in August to expand gambling, the argument was made that many Maryland residents were being forced across state lines because of a dearth of casino options in-state. Advocates said those residents’ spending could be recaptured by the state.

Hollywood Casino’s improved March shows that, Karmel said.

“Now they’re coming home,” he said. “In a way, it’s an early indicator that prediction is borne out.”