Maryland’s largest planned casino is set to debut Wednesday night, marking a major milestone in the state’s long-running gambling debate.
Maryland Live! at Arundel Mills mall plans to open its doors to the public at 10 p.m. following a VIP reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
With a planned 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games, a half-dozen restaurants and a live music venue, the casino in Anne Arundel County will be among the largest in the country. It is located just a few miles from Baltimore Washington International Marshall airport.
A few amenities, including the music venue, are scheduled to open in the fall in a wing still under construction.
The casino will be the third of five authorized locations to open in Maryland, but it is the largest by far. Stretching the length of three football fields, the gaming floor will have more slot machines than the two other sites combined, in Cecil and Worcester counties.
Maryland legislators launched the state’s slots program in 2007, after Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) brokered a compromise intended to end years of bitter debate. Voters ratified the five sites a year later, and the state started taking bids from private operators to build and run the sites in 2009.
Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer of Maryland Live!, has faced several hurdles, including a lengthy zoning debate in front of the Anne Arundel County Council, and a public referendum in the county over the zoning measure that the council eventually passed.
State regulators awarded the $500 million facility a license to operate earlier this week.
Wednesday’s debut of Maryland Live! comes amid another contentious debate about gaming in the state. A commission set up by O’Malley is looking at whether to add a sixth casino, most likely at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and to allow Las Vegas-style, live table games at all Maryland casinos.
Cordish has emerged as the most vocal opponent of a new site, arguing it could lose 40 percent of its planned gaming revenues.