Maryland's four casinos took in about $66.5 million in revenue in June, capping a fiscal year in which they far exceeded expectations, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency announced Friday.
Even with stiff competition from more established gambling destinations in Atlantic City, N.J., and casinos in neighboring Delaware and Pennsylvania, Maryland's nascent industry has exceeded what state financial analysts had anticipated. Maryland Live Casino, the state's largest, has been one of the top revenue generators in the Mid-Atlantic.
"Maryland is becoming more of a center for gaming on the East Coast," sand James Karmel, a gambling industry analyst and professor of history at Harford Community College.
The industry is expected to grow in the next couple of years. Horseshoe Casino Baltimore plans to open next year, followed two years later by a new casino in Prince George's county. The Casino at Ocean Downs also may add table games in the next calendar year, said Stephen Martino, director of the state gaming agency.
Martino noted that Maryland's casinos topped projected revenue estimates despite being located in a "hyper-competitive gaming region." For the fiscal year through June, the casinos posted $608.3 million in revenue — $76.8 million more than the state Board of Revenue Estimates had projected.
Martino also said that while the industry is young and evolving, it has been difficult to gauge how successful the casinos would be. He pointed out that Board of Revenue Estimates, a state panel charged with predicting how much money the state will have to spend, tends to be conservative in its calculations.
In November, voters approved the addition of table games, and both Hollywood Casino Perryville and Maryland Live Casino added blackjack, craps and roulette more quickly than anticipated, Martino said. Some casinos also began staying open around the clock. And the state's fourth casino — Rocky Gap Casino and Resort in Western Maryland — opened in May.
"These numbers are an art, not a science," Martino said. "You had a situation where we generated more than we expected. I don't think anyone is complaining about it."
The June figures offer the first year-over-year comparison for Maryland Live Casino, which opened in June 2012. The Anne Arundel County casino generated $51.4 million last month from table games and slot machines, or 80 percent more than a year ago.
"Maryland Live seems to be the real breakout," said David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas' Center for Gaming Research.
In the past year, Maryland Live has grown from 3,171 slots to 4,314 while adding 122 table games in April. Robert J. Norton, Maryland Live's president and general manager, said that revenues are in line with the casino's projections and company officials are "very pleased."
Norton said that the casino not only has attracted Marylanders but also regular customers from Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. He said the site benefits from 5,000 hotel rooms in the vicinity plus its proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"Our draw is quite strong," Norton said.
Maryland Live expects its annual revenue to grow by a double-digit percentage in the next year. The facility will open 52 poker tables in August, and the casino expects that these tables, along with poker tournaments, will bring in more gamblers from even farther away.
Maryland's gain has come at the expense of casinos in Pennsylvania and Delaware, gambling experts said.
"Delaware is particularly being pinched by Maryland casinos," Karmel said.
Net proceeds of slots and table games in Delaware totaled $189.5 million for the first five months of this year, down by nearly $54.3 million from the corresponding period a year ago. Delaware casinos recently warned that they might have to lay off workers if they don't get relief from state taxes on slot machines.
Some in the gambling industry believe Maryland is reaching a saturation point, Karmel said, but he's not one of them.
"There is potential to go higher, depending on what takes shape in the next five years," he said.
Two more casinos are coming on line and existing casinos will have to respond to the new competition, he said. The result could be that Maryland's expanding gaming market could attract gamblers from beyond the Mid-Atlantic region, he said.
Not all Maryland's casinos are performing well.
Hollywood Casino Perryville, which opened in September 2010 and is the state's oldest, continues to see its revenue slide with competition from newcomers. The casino reported revenue from slot machines and table games of $7.78 million in June, down 2.17 percent from a year earlier. The Cecil County casino is home to 1,158 slots machines and 22 table games. It launched table games in March.
Meanwhile, revenue rose at the Casino at Ocean Downs, reaching $4.81 million last month, or 9.4 percent more than a year ago. The Worcester County casino operates 800 slot machines.
Rocky Gap Casino and Resort generated $2.48 million last month. It runs 558 slot machines and 10 table games.
A percentage of the revenue generated by the casinos goes toward supporting schools, racetracks and small businesses. Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement that the casino program exists to generate funds for Maryland's public schools and to create jobs here.
"We are pleased that, during this past fiscal year, the goal has not only been met but the program has exceeded expectations," he said.
Annual revenue from Md. casinos
Total revenue for fiscal year ended June 30: $608.3
Education Trust Fund: $284.3 million
Horse Racing Purse Dedication: $39.1 million
Local Impact Grants: $30.7 million
Racetrack Facility Renewal Account: $10.8 million
Maryland Lottery: $11.2 million
Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Business: $8.38 million
Casino operators: $223.8 million
Source: Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency
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