Casinos are live in Maryland: Place your bets - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Casinos are live in Maryland: Place your bets

They’re here.

Maryland Live! at Arundel Mills mall opened it doors late last night at 10 p.m. to the public after years of fighting whether casinos were going to destroy families and never really help the state economically.

After the ribbon-cutting, 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games, along with restaurants and music entertained customers just a few miles from Baltimore Washington International Marshall Airport. It’s the largest planned casino in the state – more than 300 square yards.

Gamblers said it was nice not having to drive out to Delaware to make a few bets.  They must have not heard about online gambling. In fact one patron, hurried out of Lifetime Fitness in Columbia, saying he couldn’t wait for the doors to open. He planned on being there from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The casino is going to be one of five legal locations in the state.  Others scheduled to open are in Cecil and Worcester counties.

It took five years for this to become a reality. Gov. Martin O’Malley compromise ended the long-standing debate on where to put or even put casinos in the region. Voters eventually approved the five sites a year later, and the state started accepting bids to build and run the sites in 2009.

Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer of Maryland Live!, battled a never-ending zoning debate in front of the Anne Arundel County Council, and a series of public hearings before the council eventually approved the $500 million facility.

But don’t expect the state to stop with just five. The National Harbor in Prince George’s County could be where the state decides to put the sixth casino. Expect Cordish to fight hard against this site, because it could take gaming revenues from the Anne Arundel site.

Casinos in Prince George’s County? Let’s rewind history. A few years back Prince George’s County had 14 charitable casinos operating to help fund the volunteer fire departments for two decades.

At the time, Las Vegas even promoted many of the casinos in their literature. One pamphlet said that Laurel, Maryland was one of the hottest places to gamble. Imagine that. Professional gamblers were coming into the state.

In 1997, the state forced the Prince George’s casinos to shut down – much to the frustration of the charities that claimed millions of dollars from the games helped the towns purchase fire trucks, ambulances, athletic uniforms and even a senior center.

But all that goodwill was overshadowed by reports of embezzlement, tax evasion and sad tales of gamblers who lost everything – including their families.

The state then said – enough is enough – and ordered the casinos to close the doors for good.

You have to wonder if the same thing will happen again.

Care to make a bet?





About the author

Timothy W. Maier

Timothy W. Maier started out writing music, fiction and poetry and then turned to news writing where he spent the past three decades at news organizations in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. More recently he was the managing editor at the Baltimore Examiner. He now spends time with his family, dogs, trains for marathons and works as a media consultant. Contact the author.
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