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Posts Tagged ‘VLTs’

Big Slots ‘Win’ in Maryland

Posted by jkarmel on June 2, 2010

[Originally published on GA on November 5, 2008]

Maryland voters made their point decisively yesterday, passing the VLT referendum by 59-41%. Support for the amendment was clear across the state, including in the Ocean City area, which had been the epicenter for opposition.

The result was no surprise, as polling has shown popular support for slots in Maryland since the subject first drew political scrutiny over a decade ago. My prediction (55% for, 45% against) was off by just a few points, though I knew that opponents had closed the gap some since the Washington Post’s last poll. Now is where it gets really interesting, as gaming firms begin the process leading to the opening of Maryland casinos, projected by GA for 18 months to 30 months from this date: approximately April 2010 – April 2011.

What’s next? The following is GA’s brief analysis of what’s to come over the next few months as gaming comes to Maryland:

* VLT commission: according to the Maryland legislation, the MD legislature will set up a commission with appointments from the Governor (3), state Senate president (2) and speaker of the state House of Delegates (2). I’ll speculate that this won’t take place until January, at least, when the legislature opens its 2009 session.

* License bidding: this is going to be fun. Of the five licenses, the spotlight will clearly be on the three along the extremely lucrative I-95 corridor: in Laurel, in Baltimore and in Cecil County. While Magna Entertainment clearly has an inside track for the biggest facility (Laurel- 4,750), the license is not yet a done deal for Magna & the Maryland Jockey Club despite the company’s $2 million contribution to the pro-slots effort. Other firms may see a great opportunity for a facility that could bring in $600-700 million in gross revenues. Baltimore is even more wide open. To date, the Cordish Company has expressed interest, but other major players may get in, including a group led by wealthy lawyer and Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Along with a few associates, Angelos contributed lots of money towards the end for the pro-slots effort. For Cecil, Penn National is more advanced with an option to some prime property in Perryville, MD for a facility. PN Gaming also has an impact study underway and plans for another of its ‘Hollywood’ casinos already in place. However, Cordish has also expressed interest in the Cecil license and may be in a very good competitive position, as may also be the case with the Angelos group.

* Legal action and/or zoning plays by the anti- side: This may still occur as more zealous slots opposition forces may just not be ready to concede defeat. They already employed the courts in trying to thwart the referendum. They may keep going with local legal challenges to new properties similar to Philadelphia casino opponents who have managed to delay that city’s casinos for two years.

* OK — this is just a start– GA will have much more on this in coming days, weeks, months….

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MD Slots Referendum Today!

Posted by jkarmel on June 2, 2010

[Originally published on November 4, 2008]

OK — today’s the big day: 14 years of debate culminating in a vote for legalized gaming in Maryland. Both sides have been active over the weekend, but the clear edge must go to the pro- side with signs everywhere, numerous commercials, a compelling budgetary argument and favorable recent polling (even if the gross revenue numbers are somewhat speculative).

Yet, in conversations with friends, colleagues, students and others, there are clearly still many concerns over bringing VLTs to Maryland via this referendum- both from a pro-gaming and anti-gaming perspective. Plus, there’s lots of political baggage left over from the long process in Maryland. Here’s a prediction: 55% for vs. 45% against for the final vote. But this is really just a step in the beginning of the process for Maryland gaming, regardless of what happens today. Much more to come in future postings…

(FYI — I’ve been invited to discuss the referendum on a Baltimore news channel tonight, somewhere between 9 & 9:30PM, webcast here: WMAR ch. 2 Baltimore. – jk)

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Archive: Welcome! Some Thoughts on Maryland’s slots referendum

Posted by jkarmel on May 27, 2010

[Note: This is archived from the original GA blog, first posted on October 28, 2008]

Welcome to the new Gaming Atlantic blog!  This blog exists to track the American east coast’s casino industry, with a special emphasis on mid-Atlantic casinos and racinos. Check in frequently to read gaming news and analysis. Feel free to comment on postings and engage in discussions to come on a variety of topics relevant to gaming, including:

  • politics of gaming
  • gaming finance/investment
  • individual casinos
  • gaming companies
  • gaming community impact
  • gaming regulation
  • compulsive gambling

On to Maryland: I’ve lived in the state for 11 years and legalized gaming has been an issue for that entire time.  In fact, discussions over bringing slot machines to the free state go back 14 years or so, in response to moves by Delaware & West Virginia in the 1990s.  So, finally, on November 4 we’ll know whether the state will have legal gaming.   The referendum will authorize an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow 15,000 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at five different locations (Cecil County, Baltimore, Laurel, Ocean City and Rocky Gap State Park).  According to a recent Washington Post poll, Marylanders favor the proposal by 62 to 36%, a substantial margin.  Yet, polling on the referendum has been sparse of late, and a September poll from Gonzalez Research & Marketing showed a much closer margin: 49% for VLTs, 43% against VLTs.

So, should gaming advocates rest comfortably or not in these final days of the campaign?  Probably they should not, despite cause for optimism of late.  The lousy economic and budgetary situation in Maryland has probably helped build support for the amendment over the past month.  As well, the commercials flooding the airwaves from the pro-slots group For Maryland, For Our Future have likely increased support for the amendment.  However, local media gives lots of attention to gaming opponents and they will inevitably ratchet up their rhetoric over the next week, and possibly air some commercials with their remaining resources.

I’ll have more on the Maryland situation soon, on the referendum & its aftermath.  The big question of the moment is: will the 67% tax rate prove too high to attract desirable operators, even if the referendum passes on 11/4?

There are lots of other issues, topics and questions to address regardless of whether the referendum passes or fails. In the meantime, I would love to hear more from everybody on the MD referendum as election day nears- what do you think?

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