County Casino Revenue Tops $3 Million

BERLIN — The first batch of revenue numbers for the Casino at Ocean Downs were released this week with the state’s newest slots venue generating a little over $3 million in its first month.

Maryland Lottery officials this week released the January revenue figures for the Casino at Ocean Downs, which opened to the public on Jan. 4. The facility, which opened with 750 video lottery terminals (VLTs), generated just more than $3 million in its first 28 days of operation, or just about $107,000 per day. The average revenue per machine per day came in at $144.54.

Of the $3 million in gross revenue collected at the Ocean Downs casino in January, roughly $1.5 million went to the state’s Educational Trust Fund, while the casino’s share came in at just over $1 million. The state’s horseracing purse account received $212,479, while local impact grants, which will be divided between the county, Ocean City, Berlin and Ocean Pines, came in at around $167,000.

According to the breakdown, the racetrack’s facility renewal agreement received nearly $76,000, while the Maryland Lottery received over $60,000. In addition, small, minority or women-owned businesses are set to receive a little over $45,000 from the first month’s gross revenue.

While it’s important to note the casino opened in January and the full revenue potential of the facility likely won’t be realized until the summer season ramps up in the resort area, the area’s state elected officials were somewhat impressed with the first month’s figures.

“I didn’t know what their projections were, but $3 million in less than 30 days seems to be a healthy gross revenue,” said Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) this week. “That’s good news. I can’t tell you the last time $3 million was grossed out there on that property in 30 days, if ever. I ride by there often when I come back and it always appears the lot is full or near full.”

Mathias said the facility has created an economic engine for the area beyond the hard revenue figures.

“It’s not my practice to count other people’s money, but there is much more to it than the bottom line,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs created out there and a lot of capital investment. We’re also going to see a lot of local impact money coming from that facility. It’s happening already.”

Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B) agreed the early number for the casino appeared healthy and pointed out the facility is one of just two in full operation thus far.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “The only two casinos that are open are technically both on the Eastern Shore and they were only expected to make a 10 percent contribution to the overall revenue, yet they’re the only ones up and running so far.”

While Maryland’s slot machine gambling program is in its infancy, there is already talk of expanding its facilities to include table games in the future and legislation to make that happen has already been introduced in the current General Assembly session.

“I think we may see table games in the very near future,” he said. “It’s a natural progression and it makes a lot of sense from a competitive standpoint.”

After decades of resistance to slots in the local area, several concessions were made to ensure a gambling venue in close proximity to Ocean City did not overly encroach on the resort’s traditional tourism base.

While pleased with the first batch of revenue numbers, McDermott said it is important those conditions are honored as a move toward table games progresses.

“My biggest concern is that the original agreements we have don’t get tweaked in that process,” he said. “We have to be vigilant on that. Whatever comes out of the table games discussion, we can’t allow those agreements to be lost in the shuffle, so to speak.”

While the first set of revenue numbers for Ocean Downs was optimistic, it remains to be seen if there is a honeymoon of sorts for the new gambling venue. A look at the first Maryland slots venue in Cecil County suggests that might happen.

The Hollywood Casino in Cecil County produced $2 million in revenue, or $346 per machine per day, in its first four days in September. The facility reported $11 million in October ($245 per machine per day), $7.6 million in November ($168), and $6.5 million in December ($140). The DLS projected an average take per day of $210 for the casino in Cecil County.

By comparison, the Casino at Ocean Downs generated $3 million in 28 days in January, or just about $145 per machine per day. The DLS report anticipated a daily machine per day of around $150. Of course, it’s expected the Casino at Ocean Downs will really hit its stride in the summer.

“We don’t know what that pattern looks like yet because we haven’t had a full summer out there,” said McDermott. “By the time we get through a first summer, we might have a better idea if it has been helpful, hurtful or maybe just neutral. When we see a large sample, we’ll be better prepared.”

The combined revenue for the two casinos in Cecil and Worcester Counties for the month of January came in around $10.6 million. The year-to-date numbers for the two facilities at the end of January has reached $38.3 million.