Maryland’s search for its sixth casino site will intensify next month as a state commission plans to visit the three Prince George’s County locations where gambling companies want to operate.
The commission announced Thursday that it will travel during the week of Oct. 21 to National Harbor, Rosecroft Raceway and a nearby vacant parcel in Fort Washington — the three locations identified by gambling companies competing for a single license.
The commission plans to hold public hearings regarding each of the sites after the tours.
“The purpose of each of the site visits and public hearings is for the commissioners to view the proposed location, observe the surrounding community, get a sense of the size and scope of the proposed facilities, to hear directly from the applicants, and to listen to the public support and public concerns about the proposed project,” said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission.
The tour schedule is as follows:
●Oct. 21: Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, a site proposed by Penn National Gaming.
●Oct. 23: A 22-acre parcel near Indian Head Highway and Old Fort Road in Fort Washington, a site proposed by Greenwood Racing.
●Oct. 25: National Harbor in Oxon Hill, a site proposed by MGM Resorts.
The tours are all scheduled for 2 p.m. The applicants are scheduled to make presentations at 3:30 p.m., with public hearings to follow at 6 p.m. The presentations and public hearings are all scheduled at Friendly High School in Fort Washington.
In recent months, state regulators have been conducting background checks on all three applicants, which officials said are scheduled to be completed by next month.
Four casinos are operating in Maryland, and a fifth is scheduled to open next year in Baltimore. The Prince George’s location could open by mid-2016 under state law.
Maryland’s four operating casinos raked in $71 million in August, a record for the state’s rapidly expanding gambling sector. And two of the casinos are looking for even more action, announcing plans this week to place additional bets on table games.
Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Western Maryland received conditional regulatory approval at a meeting Thursday to launch a modest, three-table poker operation next month. The casino will stage a controlled demonstration for state regulators Oct. 3, with a public opening scheduled for Oct. 7.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission also heard from the general manager of the Casino at Ocean Downs that the Eastern Shore property is planning a 50,000 square-foot addition.
The expansion plans call for “a modest table games operation,” general manager Joe Cavilla said — likely 10 tables in all, with no plans (for now) to include poker among the offerings. Cavilla said that he didn’t have a timetable for the expansion, but that Ocean Downs patrons have been clamoring for the casino to add blackjack, roulette and other live-action games.
Table games, approved by Maryland voters last November, have been a hit so far. Maryland Live is doing boffo business in its gaming pits, which opened in April, and a massive poker room, which opened in late August — $17.7 million last month alone. Hollywood Casino in Perryville has reported strong revenues at its 22 poker, craps, blackjack and other live-action tables — more than $1 million each month.
Table-game revenues in Maryland are taxed at a lower rate (20 percent) than slots (50 to 67 percent, depending on the operator).