Maryland casinos won nearly $137 million last month, a 7.2 percent year-over-year increase.

Maryland casinos MGM National Harbor

MGM National Harbor led the way in January, as Maryland casinos kicked off the year with a strong month. (Image: Facebook)

MGM National Harbor again was responsible for the lion’s share of gross gambling revenue (GGR). The casino resort outside DC won $56.2 million, or 41 percent of the state gaming market.

Live! Casino & Hotel in Arundel Mills was next with $46.3 million, and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore third with $20.1 million. The three primary casino floors all posted gains. MGM was up 11.9 percent, Live! 6.3 percent, and Horseshoe 0.6 percent.

The three smaller resort casinos – Hollywood Perryville, Ocean Downs, and Rocky Gap – collectively reported GGR of $14.29 million.

Maryland casinos won almost $1.75 billion in 2018, the state’s all-time best mark.

Market Battle

MGM National Harbor become the dominant player almost immediately after opening in December 2016. The casino initially hurt revenues at Live! and Baltimore Horseshoe.

In response, Live! constructed a $200 million, 17-story hotel with 310 guestrooms. It’s two more occupancies than what’s available at MGM.

Horseshoe Baltimore is investing heavily in the area between its casino and the nearby city professional baseball and football stadiums. The goal is to create a more appealing corridor for potential sports fans to walk through to the Caesars Entertainment gaming floor.

Horseshoe Baltimore General Manager Erin Chamberlin said last year that the corridor to casino will become the city’s “next great entertainment district.”

Sports Betting

Maryland lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a way to allow sports betting to commence at the casinos.

The Maryland Constitution requires any change to gambling laws be accompanied by a statewide election voter referendum. The next one won’t occur until November 2020, meaning sports betting will be delayed by at least two years.

However, politicians said last month they may have found a loophole. Lawmakers are considering placing sports betting under the oversight of the Maryland Lottery. New games under the lottery’s jurisdiction do not require voter referendums.

Hopefully, we can expand sports betting and dedicate that money to the education fund. That’s (sports betting) taking place in all the other states around us,” House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) said recently.

Maryland casinos are lobbying in the Annapolis capital for sports betting.

The state projects that regulated sports betting would grow overall GGR by between 1.5 percent and 6.5 percent. That means sportsbooks could deliver as much as $110 million annually.

State Wins

Marylanders approved commercial gaming in a 2008 constitutional referendum. The primary beneficiary is the state’s education system.

In January 2019, the Maryland Education Trust Fund received nearly 30 percent of the GGR, or a little more than $41.5 million. Since gaming went live, the fund as received over $2.8 billion.

Casino taxes also go to the horse racing industry, local host communities, the Maryland Lottery, and small, minority, and women-owned businesses. The state’s General Fund additionally receives a small percentage.