Casino Granted 24-Hour Request

BERLIN — While it could be several months before the Casino at Ocean Downs formalizes any plans to add table games, significant changes in the hours of operation, such as being open 24 hours a day on weekends and holidays, including New Year’s next week, are already in the offing after the state gaming commission approved several changes last week.

In November, Maryland voters approved referendum Question 7 allowing, among other things, an expansion to table games, such as blackjack, poker, roulette and craps, at the state’s existing and planned casinos. The approved referendum question also provided for the development of a sixth casino in Maryland in Prince George’s County.

Question 7 also created the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission and the newly appointed panel met on Dec. 13 for the first time to begin formalizing the rules for an expansion to table games and several other issues germane to the operation of the state’s casinos.

Casino at Ocean Downs officials said earlier this month the current facility is not set up for table games and adding them would require a significant renovation and expansion.

While there is no immediate timetable for an expansion to table games at the Casino at Ocean Downs, the Berlin facility is looking to expand its hours of operation. During the Dec. 13 meeting, the Casino at Ocean Downs requested an extension of the hours of operation to 24 hours a day on weekends and also requested permission to operate 24 hours a day on certain weekends and at certain times of the year.

“With the recent certification of State Ballot Question 7, Ocean Downs has carefully considered our opportunity for extended hours of operation,” the Casino at Ocean Downs’ letter to the commission reads. “Considering the seasonal nature of our location and current time of the year, we do not believe our location can sustain full 24/7 operations at this time. We are, however, cautiously optimistic that limited additional hours are justified.”

The Casino at Ocean Downs currently operates from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and into Sunday morning. However, in its approved request to adjust its hours as permitted by the approval of Question 7, beginning yesterday, Dec. 27, the Casino at Ocean Downs will now be open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and will be open 24 hours a day starting at 8 a.m. on Friday to 3 a.m. on Monday morning.

The timing of the requested and approved changes to the hours of operation at the Casino at Ocean Downs came as the facility was preparing for a mid-week New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day holiday and Ocean Downs officials also requested and received permission for a special holiday schedule. As a result, the Casino at Ocean Downs will be open from 8 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30, through 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, providing 24-hour access during the holiday at the Berlin gaming facility. Ocean Downs officials told the state gaming commission they will collect data during the amended 24-hour operation schedule to determine if future adjustments are needed.

“We will monitor actual occupancy and revenue generated during these periods to ensure that our operator share exceeds the additional expenses incurred,” the letter reads. “We may request to add or delete hours based on actual results and the time of year. Given the seasonal nature of our location, we would also request that the Lottery Commission authorize up to and including full 24/7 operation at our location with approval of Lottery staff. This will allow us the greatest flexibility in responding to changes in business volume and the seasonality of our location.”