BERLIN — While the Casino at Ocean Downs has been open 24 hours a day for over a month now, its allowance to keep the bar open at the facility until 4 a.m. created through compromise legislation during the 2013 General Assembly session begins next week on July 1.
In May, the Casino at Ocean Downs gained approval from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the summer season until Sept. 30 and the facility has been open around the clock ever since. Until now, however, the casino on Route 589 near Ocean Pines has been closing its bar operation at 2 a.m. just as all other liquor license holders in Worcester do.
However, that changes next week when the Casino at Ocean Downs is allowed to keep its bar operation up and running until 4 a.m. The Casino at Ocean Downs earlier this year attempted to gain approval for 24-hour bar operation, but during the Maryland General Assembly session this year, a compromise was reached on proposed legislation connected to the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) and its relationship with the licensees in Worcester.
In March, feathers were ruffled when it was learned an amendment could be attached to a bill in the General Assembly addressing other issues related to Worcester County’s liquor laws that would have allowed the Casino at Ocean Downs to serve alcohol 24 hours a day.
The proposed change rankled the liquor license holders, most of which are concentrated in and around Ocean City, because it would create an uneven playing field for the bars and restaurants that would still be held to the firm 2 a.m. closing time.
As a result, the licensees pushed for a concession on their behalf in the form of an earlier disconnect date from the county’s Department of Liquor Control wholesale operation. As part of the legislation that dissolved the old Liquor Control Board (LCB) and created the county-run DLC, the licensees were required to continue to purchase wholesale liquor from the county until July 1, 2016, at which point they would be able to opt out and purchase spirits on the open market if they so desired.