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As virus restrictions ease, Maryland casinos set new monthly revenue record

Casino revenues in Maryland reached an all-time high of $172.4 million in May, shattering the previous record of $169.2 million that had been set only two months earlier.

Those soaring revenues reflect the pent-up demand from Marylanders previously cooped up at home because of the pandemic for over a year, says the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, the agency that oversees the state’s casinos and other gambling operations.

“Since early 2020, many entertainment options have been unavailable, or available on a limited basis. With the pandemic slowly receding, people are eager to return to many types of activities, so the casinos’ recent results are certainly being driven by pent-up demand,” according to a statement provided by MLGCA’s assistant director of communications and public affairs, Seth Elkin.

May casino revenues represent a 13.2% increase over revenues in May 2019 (casinos were closed from March to June of 2020 due to the pandemic).

Casinos also contributed $73.4 million to the state in May, a 15.2% increase from the $63.7 million they contributed to the state in May 2019, and contributed $53.3 million to the state’s Education Trust Fund, an increase of $5.5 million as compared to May 2019.

Four out of the state’s six casinos were allowed to operate at full capacity as of March 12, while the remaining two — MGM National Harbor and Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore — continued to be limited by capacity restrictions at the local level. Now, all six casinos are operating at 100% capacity, though not all slot machines and table games are available due to casinos enforcing social distancing among patrons.

Maryland’s increased casino revenues mirror national trends, with the first quarter of 2021 bringing in over $11.1 billion, matching the industry’s previous all-time best quarter, the third quarter of 2019, according to the Associated Press.

A total of 12 states, out of the 25 that have commercial casinos, saw record highs for casino revenues in March, including neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania. Nationwide, revenue from slots and table games in March came within 1% of March 2019 totals.

Despite casinos’ great success in the first half of the year, and despite being open to essentially full capacity, casinos have not completely returned to pre-pandemic operations.

“The casinos haven’t fully resumed their marketing and entertainment activities, because they’re still slowly and cautiously easing their COVID-19 protocols,” MLGCA said in a statement. “Over the next few months, as they reopen more fully, we expect to see them leverage customer demand by adding more on-site events and promotions. The casinos will also be gradually opening additional slot machines and table game positions.”

It’s hard to tell whether this upward trend will continue after the pandemic, because, as concerts, sporting events, movie theatres and other forms of entertainment continue opening back up, casinos will have more competition for customers, MLGCA noted.

However, casino revenues were already on the rise prior to the pandemic, with revenues nationwide and in Maryland increasing steadily over the five years preceding the pandemic, according to the American Gaming Association.

Sports betting will also be introduced at Maryland’s casinos, possibly as early as this fall.

“The addition of sports wagering won’t be a game-changer in terms of gaming revenue, but should attract new customers and produce an ancillary benefit,” MLGCA said. “And by providing sports wagering customers with dining options and space to watch games, non-gaming revenues may improve as well.”