With the MGM National Harbor Casino slated to be completed in the next few months, there are still looming questions as to whether it will negatively impact Anne Arundel County's own Maryland Live casino. Mgm casino.
When voters narrowly approved expanding the number of casinos in Maryland from five to six through a 2012 referendum, there were concerns of over-saturation.
At the time, the state had only three casinos, with two others on the way, outside of the plans for one in Prince George's County. Some analysts worried that a combination of the increase in online gambling and a shift in the gambling habits among younger generations could spell doom for local casinos.
For Maryland Live specifically, the creation of another casino close to the Washington, D.C., corridor could leave the two casinos fighting for the same customers.
That's a major concern for Del. Pam Beidle, D-Linthicum. She said the county sees between $18 million and $20 million in tax revenue from the casino.
Beidle was one of a handful of delegates from Anne Arundel who voted against the House bill to expand gambling in the state in 2012.
"MGM wasn't in the original plan when Maryland Live opened on the (Route) 295 corridor," Beidle said. "They were planning for a lot of their traffic coming from the south."
A December 2013 study by Cummings Associates, a consulting company commissioned by the state gaming agency, said Maryland Live is expected to lose 16 percent of its market share in 2019.
Beidle's main concern is that, if Maryland Live were to lose it's profitability, Anne Arundel would lose the tax benefits as a result.
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"We have a tax revenue cap... that additional money has been very important to the county," she said.
MGM officials have not commented on an official opening date, saying only that the casino would open this summer. Calls to the company were not returned.
Additionally, calls for comment from Maryland Live representatives about concerns over their profitability were not returned.
But there are reasons for optimism, said James Karmel, a casino analyst and professor at Harford Community College.
For one, the top executive of MGM Resorts International has said it looks to differentiate the National Harbor casino by focusing on making it a "destination" resort.
"The reason why we're investing to the degree we are —, it's clearly far more money than anybody has ever invested in a regional casino —, is because we don't believe it is a regional casino," James Murren, MGM's chairman and CEO, said last year in D.C.
Sitting on the Potomac River, the $1.2 billion investment by MGM includes a 23-story hotel with 308 rooms and suites. It will also benefit from the nearby Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which has 2,000 guest rooms.
"It has a greater potential than any of the other sites to be a resort destination," Karmel said. "I think if the leadership of MGM was only anticipating making revenue... through Maryland (customers), it wouldn't be enough to justify investing that massive amount."
And while nationwide gambling revenue numbers have either stagnated or dropped over the last few years, Maryland has largely bucked the trend.
As recently as March, the state's overall casino revenue was the second-highest in its short history, reaching nearly $98 million overall. While Horseshoe Casino Baltimore has cut into Maryland Live's overall market share, the Hanover casino is still seeing its profits rise, reaching $54.6 million that month.
Karmel said "there will be a significant impact on the Maryland Live revenues," but added "how much of an impact I think is still an open question."
He posited that it could hit the casino's annual revenue "between 10 and 30 percent," but said "I think Maryland Live is doing so well from a revenue perspective, it could still absorb that... and still be good."
Karmel pointed to the efforts the Cordish Cos., the casino's owner, undertook to cater to professional card players.
As the 2012 referendum also allowed casinos to have table games at their facilities, Maryland Live sponsored a free school program through Anne Arundel Community College to train card dealers.
"It's generally seen as one of the premiere casinos on the East Coast," Karmel said, also pointing to "affluent players" along the D.C. corridor that comprise a substantial part of their business.
The vision of the two establishments will provide a large enough gap where Maryland Live will not have to worry about MGM pulling too much of the customer base away from Hanover.
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However, he added that if there's one place that should worry about the impending opening of MGM National Harbor, it's the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia.
Because of West Virginia's geography, it served as a legitimate location for those in the D.C. area and got a major upgrade in 2010 to try and capitalize on that opportunity.
So when the 2012 referendum looked to further cut into their profits by authorizing another casino in the area, Penn National Gaming Inc., the casino's owners, spent more than $41 million in a campaign to try to halt the measure.
Now that Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties' casinos will directly compete with Hollywood Casino, Karmel put the West Virginia's fate in blunt terms.
"Will Charles Town even survive?" Karmel said.