Maryland Live saw its gross gaming revenues (GGR) plummet in 2017 when the MGM National Harbor came to town. Now the casino is turning to gambling smokers, hoping to turn the tables back in its favor. In a state where indoor smoking hasn’t been allowed anywhere indoors for the past 10 years, Maryland Live saw an opportunity to attract smokers who want to be able to indulge in their two vices simultaneously.
Located in Arundel Mills, Maryland Live was the state’s richest casino floor prior to National Harbor opening in December of 2016. GGR at Live fell from $653.1 million in 2016, to $545 million last year, a loss of more than $108 million.
In what might be an effort to regain some of its lost market share, Live, owned by Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies, has decided to grab a group with literally nowhere to go if they want to play slots and puff at the same time.
To that end, the casino has announced an outdoor gaming area where smoking will be permitted. Both table games and over 150 slot machines, as well as a full bar, will be offered in the space that is being called the Orchid Gaming & Smoking Patio.
The area will feature ticket in/ticket out tables, which allow players to move between table and slot machines without visiting the cashier cage. According to a press release from Maryland Live, Orchid will offer blackjack, baccarat, and roulette tables. The 8,500-square-foot facility is scheduled to open May 1, 2018.
Maryland’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which went into effect in February 2008, was in place before the first of the state’s six casinos opened in 2010. The law bans smoking in all indoor workplaces.
While some states have excluded casinos from anti-smoking laws, Maryland has not. However, casinos can apply for special outdoor gaming permits with the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Live’s nearest competitor, has several small outdoor smoking decks that feature a handful of slot machines. Talking with The Baltimore Sun, Live President Rob Norton said that’s not at all what Orchid is about.
“It’s a full casino experience, not just a couple of slot machines thrown on a patio,” the executive explained. “You’ll feel like you’re in an outdoor garden.”
Outdoor casino gaming areas aren’t unique to Maryland, but have been implemented in several states where gaming regulators and local governments permit such activity.
Soon after Caesars President Mark Frissora told the Louisiana Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force that the implementation of a smoking ban in 2015 cost Harrah’s New Orleans almost $70 million in lost revenue in just two years, the casino was permitted to construct an outdoor smoking and gaming lounge. Today, the courtyard offers about 125 slot machines.
Coming Into Harbor
MGM National Harbor has quickly become the dominant casino in Maryland. In its first full year in operation, the venue generated more than $608.5 million in GGR.
MGM CEO Jim Murren said the resort would be focused on out-of-state travelers, and therefore would have little impact on regional casinos. But for Live, its financial revenue shows that National Harbor is likely poaching its customer base.
Cordish is making substantial investments in Maryland Live to keep, and rebuild, its gambling base.
The casino is building a hotel tower with 310 guestrooms, just two more than are offered at National Harbor. But the amenities at MGM, which include numerous restaurants, entertainment, art, shopping, and a spa, will still likely continue to give Live! a run for its money.
Maryland Live’s outdoor smoking area will be a beacon of smoke rings for those who find puffing a cigarette or cigar a more-favored recreational activity to MGM’s offerings.