The Washington Post

Maryland Live! casino touts table games, expanded hours, despite earlier objections

Maryland Live! Casino. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The owner of Maryland Live!, a casino that vigorously opposed the state’s expanded gambling plan during a summer legislative session, on Wednesday touted some of its benefits following last week’s ratification by voters.

Casino officials, speaking at an elaborately staged news conference, said the addition of live table games this spring would help complete their “world-class” facility that opened in June at Arundel Mills mall in Anne Arundel County.

And they said they would soon begin 24-hour operations, taking advantage of another provision of Question 7, which Maryland voters passed 52 percent to 48 percent.

“We’re excited about what the very near future holds for us,” Robert J. Norton, the casino’s general manager, told reporters gathered on the floor of the concert venue of Maryland Live!

Norton was joined by David S. Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., the casino’s owner. They spoke from a black jack table instead of a podium.

The news conference began with twirling stage lights and the blaring of Kenny Rogers’s song, “The Gambler.” Cordish entered with 20-something women on each arm. The women, who wore low-cut tops, tight shorts and fishnet stockings, were later introduced as “the ladies of Live!”

Cordish, in response to a question, acknowledged his company’s opposition to the legislation that facilitated Question 7 on the ballot. But he said — as he has many times in the past — that the opposition stemmed from a provision that would allow a new casino in neighboring Prince George’s County.

Ideally, Cordish said, the legislature would have split the bill in two: putting the question of a new casino to voters separately than that of table games. Black jack, roulette and craps will be among the new games allowed.

Had table games been on the ballot alone, that would have passed “98 to 2 or something,” Cordish said.

While Maryland Live! was the most vocal opponent of the plan during the legislative session, Cordish sat out the high-dollar campaign over Question 7. The opposition was chiefly funded by Penn National Gaming, which spent more than $40 million in a failed effort to defeat the plan.

Penn’s properties include a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that analysts say stands to take a hit if a large-scale gambling venue opens in Prince George’s.

Officials from Maryland Live!, the state’s largest casino, also promoted a free “dealer school” that is schedule to begin Jan. 7. About 1,200 new jobs should result from table games and expanded hours, Cordish said.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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