At a preview held for area media, the massive Maryland Live! Casino was shown off in all its flashing, twinkling, tax-revenue-generating glory.
As Maryland's newest casino prepares to open in Anne Arundel County, mixed feelings remain among residents and businesses in the area.
Sitting on 12 acres of land next to the Arundel Mills Mall, the Maryland Live! casino is easily the state's largest gaming facility, and it's the third-largest in the U.S. With a buffet and approximately 4,000 humming slot machines covering 330,000 square feet of gaming space, it seems to have everything you'd expected in a Vegas-style casino. Everything, that is, dealer-assisted table games -- which are prohibited by state law.
Instead, table games such as black jack and roullette are played on electronic machines, explains Joe Weinberg, president of casino developer Cordish Company.
"So, our blackjack tables have the same math, the same number of decks as any dealer-dealt game," he says. "The only difference is that you see your cards some electronically across the screen."
Unlike those in Vegas, the Maryland Live is not open 24 hours. The facility is open Sunday-Thursday 8 a.m.-2 a.m., and Friday and Saturday 8 a.m.-4 a.m. The hours are part of the compromise made by developers to ease the concerns of residents in adjacent neighborhoods who were concerned the casino would attract crime.
Jean Forrest lives in a development so close to the casino that she can see it from her apartment. Despite that proximity, she says she's not worried.
"Well the crime, as far as I'm concerned, couldn't get any worse than it already is," she says. "I think with the appropriate security from the casino, everything will be fine. A far as the gambling is concerned, I'm all for it."
But there's a different mood four miles down the street in Laurel. Although Maryland Live is expected to employ 1,500 people and draw as much as $400 million in tax revenue, a few years ago, many expected the casino would be built at nearby Laurel Park race track, providing a much needed economic shot in the arm and a moral boost for the state's troubled horse racing industry.
After a fight between the two venues, the slots license was eventually awarded to Cordish. Although part of the revenue from the new casino will benefit horse tracks such as Laurel, track regular Tony Holier says the state and track owners 'blew it.'
"I'm very disappointed," he says. "The casino would have enhanced the whole racing culture, but they blew it."
The $500 million casino opens June 6, pending approval from the state lottery agency. A second phase of development later this year will see the installation of another 1,500 slot machines as well as a additional restaurants and a music venue.