A state panel also awarded a license Thursday for the construction of a smaller slots venue in Western Maryland, leaving just one of the five gaming sites authorized by state voters in 2008 without an approved operator.
When its doors open in June, the Arundel Mills site will offer 3,200 slot machines and electronic table games, according to developer Cordish Cos. By fall, that figure is expected to grow to 4,750 machines, making Maryland Live! one of the largest casinos of its kind in the country.
Besides touting the facility’s planned amenities, Cordish officials also said they hope its opening will influence an ongoing debate over whether Maryland should authorize a sixth casino in neighboring Prince George’s County.
A bill that called for a public vote on allowing another casino, most likely at National Harbor, died on the final night of the General Assembly’s 90-day session but could be revived during a possible special session this summer. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is among those pressing for the casino.
Joe Weinberg, managing partner for Cordish, argued Thursday that the region lacks the capacity for another “mega-casino,” given his company’s facility, another planned for downtown Baltimore and an existing venue in Charles Town, W.Va.
“I think it’s very helpful for members of the General Assembly who are considering expansion to see what a 4,750-slot-machine facility looks like — the size and the magnitude of that,” Weinberg said.
The planned restaurants at Maryland Live! include Bobby’s Burger Palace, a creation of celebrity chef Bobby Flay. The music venue will be run by Rams Head, which also has concert facilities in Annapolis and Baltimore.
State analysts project that Maryland Live!, once it is fully operational, will generate more than $400 million a year in slots revenue — nearly half of which would flow to state education programs under current law.
The figures dwarf those for the state’s two existing casinos — in Cecil and Worcester counties — as well as the expectations for the Allegany site that received a license Thursday.
A state panel approved a plan for an 850-machine slots casino on the grounds of Rocky Gap State Park. As part of the deal, Evitts Resorts agreed to buy an ailing, state-financed golf resort on the property. Evitts has pledged to invest $54.6 million in improvements to the lodge and construction of the casino.
After failing to lure investors in initial rounds of bidding, state officials changed the terms to allow a Rocky Gap operator to keep a larger share of slots proceeds for the first decade of operation.
Evitts had indicated it will take 18 to 24 months to build and open the facility.
The fifth state license, for a site in downtown Baltimore, could be awarded by summer, said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the the state panel that picks slots operators. A single bidding group, led by Caesars Entertainment Corp., is seeking the license.
“Certainly, we all would like to have moved faster. However, it’s a complicated process,” Fry said, adding that he is pleased with the progress that state is making on its gaming program.