Does the passing of Question 7 in Maryland spell doom for its newest casino?

Just a few days after the election, Caesars Entertainment made an announcement that provides the first visible results of Maryland’s vote to expand the state’s gambling industry (mainly, the addition of table games and more casinos).

Back in July, Caesars won the license to build a casino in Baltimore and announced it would open a Harrah’s with 3,750 slot machines in mid-2014. But after Question 7 passed earlier this month, Caesars decided to up the ante a bit.

From The Baltimore Sun:

Caesars now will build a higher-end Horseshoe-brand casino rather than a Harrah’s on the Baltimore site near M&T Bank Stadium that will focus on table games such as poker and black jack.

My first comment to Kyle when I heard this was, “I think the idea that they need to rename it Horseshoe to focus on some demo is stupid, especially from a company that obviously cared enough about brand awareness to rename itself Caesars.” (Seriously, does the name Horseshoe mean anything to anyone on the East Coast?)

But my second comment was, “If done right this thing is going to destroy Maryland Live.”

This new Horseshoe will be an easy 10-mile trip up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from Maryland Live, the half-billion-dollar casino complex that opened this past June in the parking lot of Arundel Mills Mall. But that’s not it for new competition, as Question 7 also included approval of a new MGM Resorts-run complex in southern Prince George’s County, 33 miles southwest of Maryland Live and much closer to Washington, D.C.

Doesn’t this make Maryland Live the odd man out — a stop that gamblers no longer need to make on the way from Baltimore to D.C.?

The Cordish Companies, owners of Maryland Live, expressed concern about the potential market saturation just three months ago. And while the statements have been fairly general, allow me to get more specific.

Maryland Live won’t be far enough away from either the Horseshoe in Baltimore or the MGM project at National Harbor to pull from different markets, and the competitors are both far closer to the larger population hubs in the area. Meanwhile, the casinos won’t be close enough together to be mutually beneficial, as Maryland isn’t creating a new Atlantic City where people will go for weekends at a time to gamble and do other “resort” activities.

In Baltimore and at National Harbor, the casinos are close enough to places that are destinations in their own right (at least that’s what Caesars and MGM are hoping, I’m sure). Maryland Live is going to have to hope that there’s a big market of local gamblers who stop off to lose a couple hundred bucks after work or between errands.

Ignoring the societal ills that I think that creates, ask any casino player about the connotation attached to “locals casino” and they’ll tell you it’s not big money.

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