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After state approval, Rocky Gap casino officially opens

Rocky Gap Casino Resort was given the OK to open its gambling operation to the public on Wednesday, making it the fourth commercial casino to open in Maryland since September 2010.

Rocky Gap chips

Casino chips at Rocky Gap Casino Resort (Alexander Pyles/The Daily Record)

Rocky Gap, once a state-owned conference center and golf resort, now becomes the smallest but most uniquely situated casino in the state.

Lakes Entertainment Inc. — parent company of operator Evitts Resort LLC — has installed 558 slot machines and 10 tables games such as blackjack, three-card poker and roulette in what was once conference space at the lodge. New conference space is being built and Rocky Gap management expects it to open before November.

Management expects the casino to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The casino was open for eight hours Monday for a controlled demonstration, where state regulators monitored operations and casino employees. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency formally approved the casino’s operating license late Wednesday afternoon.

“After a thorough review of the casino, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency is satisfied that the Rocky Gap facility is properly prepared to open to the public,” Lottery Director Stephen L. Martino said in a statement.

Located on 170 acres in Rocky Gap State Park — just off Interstate 68 near Cumberland in Allegany County — the resort was owned by Maryland Economic Development Corp. from 1998 until the property’s sale last summer.

Then called Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort, the property eventually covered operating expenses but failed to chip away at debt that ballooned to more than $60 million before it was written off in the sale.

The property includes more than 200 rooms, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and waterfront views of Lake Habeeb.