The new Horseshoe Casino employs about 2,500 people, and half of them come from Baltimore.
Think of all the glitz and glamour of a flashy new casino, multiply it by ten and you’ll have an image of what the new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore looks like. The bright lights, showgirls, cocktails, fancy food and loud music attracted a number of high rollers to the $442 million casino, on its opening night.
Both gamblers and curious visitors lined up at the entrance of the casino last week to get a look at the new venue. VIPs got seats to a special performance by a vertical dance group, and pop star Iggy Azalea showed up for a surprise concert.
Casinos in the US state of Maryland
Maryland now has a total of five gambling venues:
• Rocky Gap Casino
• Horseshoe Casino
• Hollywood Casino Perryville
• Maryland Live!
• Ocean Downs
The company licensed to operate Maryland’s fifth casino did its best to make a good first impression. Last week, the company organized a huge inaugural ceremony, fit for the occasion. The operator hung up huge banners depicting major events organized in Baltimore, including the first Preakness in 1873. The message read: “Baltimore. It’s your lucky day.”
Before the venue opened its doors to the public, dignitaries gathered outside, where they pulled a giant slot machine handle which triggered fireworks. Special guests included Gov. Martin O’Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Both of them praised the casino for hiring local employees.
“I wish everyone good luck this evening,” O’Malley said. The governor then credited Caesars Entertainment, the casino operator, “for doing it on time and getting it done.”
With American gambling laws leaving it up to state authorities to decide whether to allow casinos or not, regulators have debated the issue for many years. In 2008, voters participated in a referendum and the majority gave their approval for slots games to become available in the state.
New jobs for locals
Many of those who started by opposing the idea ended up admitting that such investments would help create new jobs and increase the state’s income.
“There are people that aren’t excited about gambling, and I am one of them,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told reporters. “I have never gambled more than $5. But how can you put a price on jobs? We need jobs.”
“In order for this to really work, Baltimore City residents have to benefit by getting these jobs,” Rawlings-Blake said at the opening ceremony.
The Employment Development department at the mayor’s office signed a partnership with the casino operator, making it easier to reach out to potential employees. Now more than 1,200 people from Baltimore have new jobs at the Horseshoe Casino.
In addition, the deal says that the company has to pay the city at least $11 million in lease, as well as profit-sharing and property taxes, during its first year of business.
Gambling industry growing
Besides the brand new Horseshoe Casino, there are four other gambling venues in the state. All these businesses are generating revenue for education, horse racing and other local projects. According to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, the four companies raised almost $1.82 billion since 2010.
Now that the Horseshoe Casino is open, gamblers can choose from more than 100 new table games and 2,500 slot machines. Some of these are located outside, on terraces, making it possible for smokers to enjoy themselves without bothering non-smokers.
For visitors interested in seeing more than your regular American poker room, there’s a Baltimore-themed restaurant “marketplace”. The casino even has a number of windows that allow natural light to come in and brighten up the place, and this is something you don’t see very too in a casino.
The casino will have to face some serious competition from Maryland Live, another large and popular gambling venue located 12 miles away, at Arundel Mills mall. But the Horseshoe is likely to steal some of its rival’s customers, especially since it will host a qualifying stop for the World Series of Poker.
While Atlantic City’s gambling market is collapsing, Barnhill said the market in the Baltimore-Washington area is still doing well. And with the Horseshoe, things can only get better.