Maryland Casino Capacity Restrictions Lifted, as Gaming Industry Struggles Continue

Posted on: March 10, 2021, 08:33h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2021, 08:56h.

Maryland casinos will no longer be subject to capacity limits beginning Friday, March 12, at 5 pm ET.

Maryland casinos Larry Hogan COVID-19
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is seen here this week announcing progress in the state’s fight against COVID-19. With more favorable coronavirus conditions, casinos are being permitted to increase their capacity limits. (Image: Maryland Matters)

Citing a decrease in the number of cases and hospitalizations and the ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced yesterday that casinos will no longer need to adhere to occupancy restraints. State orders have curbed casino capacity to 50 percent since December. 

As we’ve marked one year of grappling with this deadly virus, many of us have been recalling our lasts. The last time we ate inside of a restaurant. The last time we celebrated a big occasion with family and friends,” Hogan said.

Though casinos can stop counting how many people enter their doors, employees and guests must still wear masks inside. Social distancing is also still to be observed. 

Relief Comes at Critical Time

Hogan’s easing of COVID-19 capacity restrictions on casinos arrives as the state’s gaming industry continues to struggle. The six commercial casino properties collectively won $126.2 million last month. That’s a 16.6 percent year-over-year decline, or a $25 million loss.

MGM National Harbor, the state’s top casino revenue generator, was limited to operating at 25 percent capacity in February. The Oxon Hill property near the nation’s capital still led the way with gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $50.8 million. The casino’s February 2021 win was down almost 17 percent from February 2020. 

Operating at 50 percent capacity in February, Live! Casino Hotel in Anne Arundel came in second at $44.9 million. That’s an 18 percent drop from February 2020. 

Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore remains limited to 25 percent on city orders. The Caesars property placed a distant third at $14.3 million. This is a year-over-year tumble of more than 20 percent. 

The state’s three smaller resort casinos — Hollywood Casino Perryville, Ocean Downs in Berlin, and Rocky Gap in Flintstone — combined for roughly $16 million in GGR. 

Industry Outlook

It’s unclear if local officials in Prince George County, home to MGM National Harbor, will follow Hogan’s lead and allow the integrated casino resort to increase its indoor capacity. The same goes for Horseshoe in Baltimore city.

The state casinos will nonetheless soon be delivered good news by way of sports betting. Maryland voters passed a ballot referendum to expand the state constitution to allow gambling on sports last November.

Maryland lawmakers are working on regulations that will govern betting on sports. A bill could be passed by the end of the week, clearing the way for sports betting to commence in April. 

Lawmakers support allowing each of the six casinos to incorporate a sportsbook into its facility. The Laurel Park Racetrack and Pimlico Race Course, as well as the Maryland State Fairgrounds, would also be allowed to operate in-person sports betting. 

The state’s three major professional sports venues — FedEx Field, Camden Yards, and M&T Bank Stadium — would be, too. Fifteen mobile sports betting licenses are additionally included. 

Tax rates still need to be ironed out.