Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Maryland Live Casino
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency responded that it will soon be ‘finalizing goals …for the architect and engineering phase of Maryland Live Casino,’ which opened in June 2012. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

March to the tables for Maryland’s casinos

Maryland’s betting boom comes down to one major factor: table games.

“The table games bet, so to say, has really paid off,” said James Karmel, president and chief analyst of Gaming Atlantic, a casino gaming consultancy. He pointed to the state revenue reports from March 2014, compared to the year before, as proof.

Stephen Martino, director of the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, agreed, calling table games “the workhorse” that’s building up casino revenue.

Revenue at Maryland’s casinos has increased 27.3 percent, or $15.8 million, year over year since March 2013, excluding the income from Rocky Gap Casino Resort, which opened in May 2013.

But in March 2013, Maryland Live Casino, in Hanover, which was already bringing in the majority of revenue, had not yet added table games. In March 2014, the state brought in $25.4 million just from table games, most of which came from Maryland Live.

While each table game requires more space and staffing than a slot machine, the tables bring in significantly more revenue per unit.

For instance, in March, each of the 4,322 slot machines at Maryland Live brought in about $285 per day. Each of the 125 banking table games (in which gamblers play against the house instead of each other) brought in more than $5,452 per day. The 52 non-banking games each brought in about $1,562 per day.

While these numbers explain long-term growth, the reasoning behind a sudden casino windfall is less clear.

March was a record-breaking month for Maryland casinos, which brought in $77.85 million in revenue.

“That number was surprising to me,” said Martino. He said he had his staff double-check the revenue when he saw it.

The casinos brought in between $65 million and $66.8 million in each of the previous six months.

All four of the state’s casinos boosted income from February to March, with percent increases in the double digits.

“March is seasonally a very strong month for the industry as the end of the winter season approaches,” Rob Norton, president and general manager of Maryland Live Casino, said in an email. “Cabin fever has set in and people are ready to get out of the house.”

But Martino said the results are counterintuitive because unpleasant weather conditions continued throughout March. The casinos deserve some of the credit, he said, for continued marketing efforts.

But Karmel said that the slight upgrade in the weather, along with slow economic improvements, may have been enough to cause the boost.

Rocky Gap Casino saw the greatest percent of increase over February, bringing its revenue to $3.98 million, nearly 28 percent more than in the month before. But since that casino opened in May 2013, it cannot make annual comparisons.

“It could be that they’re getting a little buzz in the industry,” said Karmel.

March’s numbers may suggest that Maryland has room for the two more casinos it plans to open, he said, but “a lot still has to play out.”

State gaming officials expect the market to grow statewide and accommodate, said Martino, based on consultant reports.

However, he acknowledged that the existing casinos will lose market share.

Even Hollywood Casino Perryville, he said, whose March revenue showed a 16.5 percent year-over-year drop, will likely lose customers when Horseshoe Casino Baltimore opens in South Baltimore.

“They know that was going to be the case when they applied to operate the casino,” said Martino.