Maryland’s casinos saw increases in revenues of 8% in 2018, almost reaching the $1.75bn mark. However, there are concerns that with sports betting set to become legal in the neighboring district of Washington DC that future revenues could take a hit.
There are six casinos in the state currently, with five of them posting decent levels of growth. The exception is the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, which has suffered from poor levels of performance in recent years.
The casinos had a strong finish to the year, with the figures from the Maryland Lottery and Gambling Agency showcasing a 5.2% growth in revenues year on year for the month of December, reaching $148m. This was an increase of $8.4m in comparison with November 2018.
Sports betting legalization
Since the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, many states have looked to push through legislation on the matter.
To date, New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico have approved sports betting in their jurisdiction. Their sportsbooks are now open for business. The results have been steady to date, with the state governments benefiting from the tax revenues.
The district of Washington DC looks likely to be the next to offer sports betting. A bill was rushed through the various authorities starting in December to make it legal in the district. The bill would see sports betting permitted at the major sporting arenas in the district, as well as at certain facilities, such as restaurants and liquor stores.
The DC Council was in favour of the bill with a vote of 11-2. The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 was only introduced on December 4 by Councilman Jack Evans.
Usually, such a bill would take many months and even years to gain approval. However, the final step before it becomes law is for the mayor to sign it.
The plan is for legal sports betting to be open for business by the start of July. There will be mobile sports betting, but this will only be in the control of the DC lottery for the time being.
Effect on Maryland casino revenues
There are no casinos currently in Washington DC, which has had to look at alternative options for operators to run their sportsbooks. While Maryland casinos posted decent growth for 2018, many believe that the introduction of sports betting into the capital will have a detrimental effect on their revenues.
A lot of people will turn to sports betting to get their gambling fix instead of playing at casinos. The availability of mobile sports betting will also be more of an attraction, as people can place bets from the comfort of their own homes.
Many Maryland are already crossing state lines to West Virginia, where sports betting is legal, in order to place sports bets. They will inevitably also gamble on casino games there, instead of making the journey to the facilities in Maryland. Therefore, Maryland is expected to make legalization a priority now.
The state will not want to lose out on valuable tax revenue going across state borders. However, for sports betting to become legal, it would ultimately require a referendum on the issue, which could not take place until 2020 at the earliest.
Slots come top at Maryland casinos
Despite sports betting being out of reach for the Maryland casinos in 2019, they will continue to try and expand their operations. The bulk of their revenues came from slot machines, hitting the $1.1bn mark in 2018 out of total revenues of almost $1.75bn. Revenue from table games was at the $653m mark.
The leading venue in the state is the National Harbour, which is owned by MGM Resorts and has been open since December 2016. It saw a yearly revenue increase of almost 16%, up to $705m.
The Live Casino and Hotel saw a 5.5% increase up to $575m. The Hollywood Casino Perryville saw revenues of $75m, while Rocky Gap had a small year-on-year increase of $1m, up to $54.7m.
The loser in 2018 was the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, whose revenues fell by 14.2% and 7.2% in November and December respectively. Its overall revenue for the year fell 4.2%, down to $260m. The casino now has a deal with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens as its official gambling partner, which it hopes might boost its profile and image.