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Problem gambling researchers, experts gather in Baltimore
As Maryland Lottery & Gaming expands its commitment to promote responsible gambling, the agency served as a sponsor of last week’s 29th annual National Council on Problem Gambling Conference, which brought experts from around the world to Baltimore.
Maryland Lottery & Gaming Assistant Director for Gaming Charles LaBoy and Responsible Gambling Coordinator Mary Drexler were among the agency staff on hand as researchers and problem gambling specialists presented discussions and data on problem gambling prevention and treatment, regulatory issues and public awareness efforts. Representatives from four of the state’s five casinos also attended.
The timing and location of the conference were especially significant for Maryland Lottery & Gaming. As the event was getting underway just a few miles from the agency’s Baltimore headquarters, Maryland Lottery & Gaming learned it had been accepted into the World Lottery Association (WLA), a global organization whose members are required to implement and enhance responsible gambling programs and adhere to stringent social responsibility standards.
“Encouraging people to enjoy Lottery games and casino gambling in a responsible way is an important part of the agency’s work,” Drexler said. “Having the National Council on Problem Gambling Conference here in Baltimore was a great opportunity because it gave us a chance to share insights with leaders in the field.”
Maryland Lottery & Gaming’s emphasis on responsible gambling has been an ongoing endeavor. In 2010, the agency established the Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling, creating a partnership of state entities to provide resources and support for Marylanders with gambling problems. Help is available 24 hours a day by phone at 1-800-GAMBLER. Two of the Alliance’s partner organizations – the Maryland Center for Excellence on Problem Gambling and the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling – served as co-hosts of last week’s conference.
Via The Washington Post
Residents and minority-owned businesses in Prince George’s are getting their fair share of contracts in the construction of Maryland’s sixth casino, MGM National Harbor’s top executive told county officials Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a group of Prince George’s County businesses filed a lawsuit claiming that the casino giant has not complied with minority-business contracting standards.
So far, nearly one-third of contracts in the $1.2 billion project have gone to minority-owned businesses, Lorenzo Creighton, president and chief operating officer for the company, said during two hours of intense questions about MGM’s “best efforts” to hire locally. About half of the minority-owned firms hired to work on the project in 2014 were based in Prince George’s, Creighton said.
MGM officials did not say how many county residents have been hired, but they said 19 percent of the 96,000 total labor hours worked in 2014 were performed by county residents.
The contracting figures exceed promises MGM made in a community benefits agreement that was part of the negotiations last year when it sought approval to build the luxury resort at National Harbor.
“We are excited about bringing this economic development to Prince George’s County,” Creighton said, calling MGM an “industry pioneer in diversity.”
“As we continue, there will be many more contract and career opportunities for minority business enterprises and Prince George’s County residents,” he said.
Some lawmakers and residents have questioned MGM’s transparency in sharing information about its hiring efforts and contracting process and have urged it to step up efforts to give more county residents and firms the jobs they were promised.
Via Baltimore Business Journal
Maryland’s five casinos generated $88.9 million last month.
Including the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which opened in August, the state’s casino industry grew 24.5 percent, or by $17.5 million. But at the state’s four other casinos, year-over-year revenue for April fell by $5.42 million, or 7.6 percent. Year-over-year revenue at existing casinos has declined every months since September.
The Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which was forced to close early the last four days of April as part of a citywide curfew, generated $22.9 million in April, down from $24.7 million in March. Noah Hirsch, the casino’s vice president of marketing, said the curfew negatively impacted the casino’s revenue, but he has declined to disclose how much of a hit the South Baltimore gaming venue took because of the city’s unrest.
“April was an unprecedented month for Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, as it was for many businesses located in the city. While the casino was on pace for its best month to date, the need to close for several consecutive nights during peak hours had a significant impact on our monthly revenues,” Horseshoe General Manager Chad Barnhill said in a statement. “We are pleased to have resumed normal operations and look forward to extending the positive revenue trend we were seeing prior to the incidents that necessitated the citywide curfew.”
Via Capital Gazette
State’s central lottery system watches play, payouts and taxpayers’ share
Sliding dollar bill after dollar bill into a slot machine often seems futile.
The machine is always hungry; its bright lights and warm colors fail to line up and bring that million-dollar jackpot no matter how many bills you feed it.
Inside the machine constantly crunches cold numbers, pushing it closer to the state-required payout. One slot machine player burns $1,000 while the next could show up and win $870 on a single play, only to pump that money back into the machine and lose it all again.
Lady luck seemingly runs the show, but the machine is actually a computer program connected to a central system of servers, computers and wires that ensure the casinos are following the rules.
“At any location in the state, the system interrogates that software to insure it is approved by the state,” said Charles LaBoy, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency assistant director for gaming.
State law requires slots to pay out at least 87 percent back to the player. The Lottery and Gaming Control Agency uses a central system to monitor the machines, their movements and changes to thousands of video lottery terminals — VLTs — throughout the state.
The system cost Maryland taxpayers about $21 million over five years, and the state is ready to spend another $20 million to renew its contract and expand it to include the incoming MGM casino.
The system is a hive of black servers stored in a room in Baltimore next to a group of tech employees that handle requests, alerts and various other tools. The system oversees the 8,416 VLTs in five casinos across Maryland.
via Baltimore Sun
Unlike Maryland’s five existing casinos, the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor will be a “destination” resort projected to attract more than half of its business from outside the state, the top executive of MGM Resorts International said.
“The reason why we’re investing to the degree we are — it’s clearly far more money than anybody has ever invested in a regional casino — is because we don’t believe it is a regional casino,” James Murren, MGM’s chairman and CEO, said recently in Washington.
“Sure, we’ll grab some Maryland business. We’ll grab some from existing operators — I think they know that. But that’s really not our target market,” Murren said. “The majority of our business is going to come outside the state.”
The casino, expected to open in the second half of 2016, will take aim at Virginia — which sits directly across the Potomac River — and nearby Washington, Murren said. More broadly, he said, Maryland’s sixth casino will draw from well beyond the region.
Chris Jones, managing director of Union Gaming, an investment bank dedicated to the casino industry, agreed that MGM will be different from prospective rivals Maryland Live, which is adjacent to Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.
“It taps markets that haven’t necessarily been tapped,” Jones said of MGM National Harbor.
Located just south of Washington near where Interstate 95 crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the casino will be positioned to attract the area’s large international community, Jones said. It will have the capacity to benefit from large-convention business because of its location at National Harbor, already home to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which has 2,000 guest rooms, he said.
Via WJLA ABC 7 News
The proposed $925 million MGM casino resort at the National Harbor would include a hotel and restaurants, and is expected to bring in more than $40 million a year for Prince George’s County.
County Executive Rushern Baker has been working on a community benefit agreement for the last few months with MGM, and released those terms and goals on Tuesday.
For instance, for operations MGM plans to hire 40-percent of employees locally – including veterans. And during construction, MGM says it will try to give 30-percent of contracts to minority business enterprises, also laying out the standards MGM has to use in order to achieve them.
However, opponents argue that it’s still not tough enough of an agreement, and if a committee decides it is not doing enough to meet certain goals, MGM could be penalized.
For more information, click here.
Via Baltimore Business Journal
Maryland casino revenue climbed nearly 10 percent in May , with the bulk of gaming coming from Maryland Live Casino.
The state’s four casinos brought in $75.8 million during the month, up $6.6 million from $69.2 million in May 2012.
Maryland Live, the state’s largest casino, generated $59.5 million, up 8.1 percent from $4.5 million a year before. The casino operates 4,204 slot machines and 189 table games.
Hollywood Casino Perryville’s revenue dropped 8.7 percent, or $748,272, to $7.8 million in May. The casino operates 1,158 slot machines and 22 table games.
Casino at Ocean Downs brought in $4.7 million, down 1.2 percent from May 2013. The gaming venue houses 800 slot machines.
Rocky Gap Casino generated $3.8 million. The casino, with 577 slot machines and 16 table games, opened in late May 2013.
The state’s fifth casino, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, is scheduled to open in late August or early September.
Via Baltimore Business Journal
The Prince George’s County Planning Board on Thursday unanimously approved the detailed site plan for MGM National Harbor, bringing the 1 million-square-foot casino-resort ever closer to its expected July groundbreaking.
The board’s support should not come as a surprise, given the planning staff’s effusive praise for the project in a recently-released report that deemed MGM National Harbor a “landmark.” Neither staff nor the board had any significant issues with the proposal.
The next stop for the plan is the District Council, but it likely won’t appear on that agenda until late June or perhaps early July.
“We’re very pleased, and it’s just one more step of getting approvals, getting building permits, getting this thing up and running in a couple years,” Arthur Horne of Shipley & Horne P.A., the local attorney representing MGM, said after the vote.
A number of area residents testified, most of them in opposition to the project as a whole, or the five large video boards planned for the exterior of the resort. They called the LED boards “unnecessary” and “obtrusive” and “garish.” They compared the plan to a casino in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. They said MGM intends to “light up the universe.”
Planning Commissioner John Shoaff suggested either cutting back on the number of boards, or directing MGM to dim them or shut them off late at night. Commissioner Dorothy Bailey, on the other hand, described the lighting as “engaging and exciting.”
“It’s like beauty: It’s in the eye of the beholder,” Bailey said. “I really do appreciate the lighting.”
Horne argued for no change, and that’s what he got.
“We would prefer to have all five,” he said of the LED boards. “Right now it’s part of the overall design of the building and it’s something they believe is important to the aesthetics and the operation of the building.”
Via The Washington Post
The 295 casino throwdown is about to get started.
Caesars Entertainment is putting the finishing touches on its Horseshoe casino in Baltimore, Horseshoe general manager Chad Barnhill said Wednesday. He also shared the latest renderings of the complex, which sits close to the intersection of Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
If you are just joining us, Horseshoe is the second casino to open along the MD-295 corridor, which is turning into the epicenter of Maryland’s aggressive expansion of commercialized gaming. Horseshoe will take on Hollywood Charles Town in West Virginia, as well as Maryland Live, which opened two years ago in Hanover, just off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. MGM Resorts International is expected to join the fray in 2016, with a casino at National Harbor in Fort Washington, farther south on MD-295.
Horseshoe will feature about 100 table games and 2,500 slot machines. It has hired a small army to run the place. Barnhill said Wednesday that the casino will have hired 1,700 to 1,900 workers by the time it opens.
But long-term success is not assured in the saturated mid-Atlantic gaming market, experts say. Hollywood Charles Town is already feeling the effect of the increased competition. And it’s not going to get any better. As my colleague J. Freedom Du Lac reported in February: Roughly half of MGM National Harbor’s gambling revenue — at least $350 million in fiscal 2019 alone — is expected to come from Virginia, most of it from Northern Virginia, a critical market for Hollywood Charles Town.Stay tuned.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission will hold a meeting on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 10 a.m. to conduct qualification hearings for the applicants for the Prince George’s County video lottery facility operation license and to review and consider a vendor merger agreement, at Montgomery Park Business Center, 1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 330, Baltimore MD 21230. For additional information, please contact Marie Torosino at 410-230-8790.
For the complete agenda, click here.