Market Saturation Possible Despite Maryland Casino Revenue Records

By Sydney Paul
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK – Maryland gambling revenue hit a record high last month, but gaming economists fear that growth will level off if the state’s four casinos fail to significantly expand their customer base.

The state’s casinos raked in $71 million in gross revenue in August, according to the state Lottery and Gambling Control Agency, up from $43 million in November. The growth was driven in large part by the opening of the Rocky Gap Casino Resort in May and the addition of table games like blackjack and roulette at Maryland Live. The Hanover casino took in $17.8 million from table games in August, up from $8.4 million in April, when it first introduced table games.

The addition of table games helped attract new customers from neighboring states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia that also have table games and kept Marylanders from leaving the state, state Lottery and Gaming Control director Stephen Martino said.

But the strong growth won’t continue for much longer, predicted Mark Nichols, an economics professor who specializes in the gambling industry at the University of Nevada, Reno. The state’s gambling revenue is likely approaching a cap where the growth will level off, he said.

With two new casinos set to open in Baltimore and Prince George’s County over the next three years, there will be more competition in the mid-Atlantic for the same customer base.

“Somebody in the market is going to close,” said Bill Fasy, chief operating officer for the Casino at Ocean Downs.

The new casinos, especially the Prince George’s County property, will put a dent in the four casinos already operating in Maryland, he said.

Fasy said Ocean Downs, which is located in Worcester County, already competes for customers with the Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, and keeps a watchful eye on Maryland Live, which brought in more money than all other Maryland casinos combined last month.

“We’ve lost customers to Maryland Live,” he said.

Maryland Live, located in Anne Arundel County, saw a 64 percent increase in revenue between August 2012 and August 2013, when it brought in $53 million in gross revenue. The casino opened a 52-table poker room at the end of August. Maryland Live declined to comment.

Fasy said that the Mid-Atlantic gambling region is already saturated.

But Martino said he believes that the customer base in Maryland casinos could expand, allowing revenues to continue increasing. The construction of the Prince George’s County casino near National Harbor, in Fort Washington, or at Rosecroft Raceway, will attract customers from Washington and Northern Virginia because there are no casinos in Virginia or the district, he said.

In May, three casino operators — MGM Resorts, Greenwood Racing Inc., and Penn National gaming — made bids to build a casino in Prince George’s County. The lottery commission will hold a hearing in October to present results of investigations conducted on each applicant.

The Horseshoe Baltimore Casino near M&T Bank Stadium is expected to open next year. The Prince George’s county casino is expected to open in 2016.