Md.'s first slots casino opens ahead of schedule

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2010; 7:06 PM

Patrons of Maryland's first slots casino didn't have to wait for its grand opening to start gambling.

Hollywood Casino Perryville, a 1,500-machine facility in the state's northeastern corner, swung its doors open to the public at 8 a.m. Monday, three days ahead of a planned grand opening.

After a successful trial run Saturday night that benefited several local charities, the state issued the casino a license Sunday, and operators said they saw no reason to make Marylanders wait any longer.

"We've been extremely busy," Marc DeLeo, a spokesman for the casino, said late Monday afternoon. "The parking lots are looking pretty full, and so is the floor."

A grand opening featuring Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey is planned at the facility, owned by Penn National Gaming, for 10 a.m. Thursday.

The Perryville site has been the one bright spot in Maryland's fledgling slots program, which has endured several setbacks since voters authorized it in a November 2008 referendum.

O'Malley proposed the public vote to end a long and bitter legislative stalemate over an issue that dominated the term of his predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who is trying to win his job back in November.

The Perryville casino features various video-screen-style slot machines, some made to look like their old-fashioned predecessors. But most of the games look little like that. Many incorporate modern-day culture as themes. Among them: "Sex and the City" and Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Rumble.

The floor includes a handful of "electronic table games" - machines that simulate three-card poker, blackjack and roulette - without the cards, chips or wheels.

The site has a buffet-style restaurant - called Epic Buffet - and a gift shop.

The art deco interior is similar to that of other Hollywood Casino properties run by Penn National, with several oversize movie posters suspended from the ceilings and walls.

Members of a state commission that picks slots locations gave the site favorable reviews after visiting last week.

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