Maryland Live Casino set to debut blackjack, craps, other table games in April


Students practice four-card poker during a class at the Maryland Live Casino Dealer School on Feb. 14 in Glen Burnie, Md. (Bonnie Jo Mount/WASHINGTON POST)
February 26, 2013

Let the double downs begin.

Maryland Live Casino will begin offering live blackjack, craps, roulette and other table games April 11, marking a milestone in the state’s dramatic expansion of casino gambling.

The suburban slots hall — one of the largest commercial casinos in the country and by far the biggest in the Free State — will add 122 live-action tables, with dealers, dice, cards, chips and security cameras.

A smaller gambling venue, Hollywood Casino Perryville, plans to introduce table games March 7, pending one final greenlight from the General Assembly, casino spokeswoman Jennifer Miglionico said. The casino, which sits along I-95 between Baltimore and Wilmington, Del., will have a dozen live games plus an eight-table poker area.

Maryland Live’s date was announced Tuesday, although casino officials said it is “pending final regulatory approval.”

“The addition of live-action table games completes the world-class gaming and entertainment experience we have created at Maryland Live Casino,” Rob Norton, the property’s president and general manager, said in a statement.

Table games were approved by Maryland voters in November, along with a sixth casino in Prince George’s County. As part of the gambling-expansion referendum, the state’s casinos are allowed to operate round-the-clock; Maryland Live hasn’t closed its doors since Dec. 27.

Even without live-action table games, Maryland Live has been doing booming business since it opened June 6, pulling in an average of $1.1 million a day in gambling revenue, according to the state Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Employees at the 160,000-square-foot casino at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover have been removing some of its 4,750 slot machines (the number will shrink to 4,332), tearing up carpets and reworking its wiring ahead of the table-games operation.

“Pardon our dust, we’re making room for winners!” says a sign near an indoor construction zone.

“Get ready for a full house!” another announces, although traditional poker tables won’t be included initially. The casino will offer Pai Gow, Three Card Poker, Mississippi Stud and other “carnival-style” variations of the game come April; casino officials plan to build a 50-table, split-level poker room in the summer.

But the opening bet is on craps, blackjack and the carnival games, which will be offered at varying stakes. (The casino has some chips worth $10,000 each on order.)

The new games will probably generate as much excitement as revenue for the casino, whose table games vice president Neal Sloane recently cited an industry aphorism: “Tables are for show, slots are for dough.”

That’s not necessarily true at the high-limit tables on the Las Vegas Strip, where casinos cultivate big-money bettors who might play for $50,000 a hand.

But in Pennsylvania, the market that analysts say is probably most comparable to Maryland, table games accounted for about 22 percent of gross casino gaming revenue last year, according to the state’s Gaming Control Board. Slots produced the rest.

At Maryland Live, preparations for table games have been underway for months. Since Jan. 7, the casino and Anne Arundel Community College have been operating a dealer school at Marley Station mall in Glen Burnie, where about 800 gambling greenhorns are being trained as dealers. The casino plans to hire more than 500 first-timers, along with more than 200 experienced dealers from other states.

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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