Lawmakers warn about the impact of crime for residents and local businesses

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore's operations threatened by local crime rates

“I am concerned if we don’t find a way to improve the ongoing safety and attractiveness of Baltimore City in the years ahead,” explains State Sen. Bill Ferguson.
2018-04-06
Reading time 2:22 min
“I am concerned if we don’t find a way to improve the ongoing safety and attractiveness of Baltimore City in the years ahead. The level of concern I have for the casino is the same as for the small businesses in Fells Point or Federal Hill or Westport,” explains State Sen. Bill Ferguson (D), who represents South Baltimore.

The 17 neighborhoods around the casino, known as the “South Baltimore Gateway,” collectively saw most crimes decrease from 2016 to 2017, according to police figures supplied by the city. The most common crimes last year were larceny, which went from 661 to 582, a 12 percent drop, and common assault, which fell from 481 to 421, also a 12 percent decline. There were 13 homicides in 2016 and eight in 2017.

“It is our understanding that the attendance results for 2017 are fully in line with Horseshoe Casino’s business plan,” said James Bentley, Pugh’s deputy press secretary.

State Sen. Bill Ferguson (D), who represents South Baltimore, called Horseshoe “stable” but acknowledged concern about crime.

“I am concerned if we don’t find a way to improve the ongoing safety and attractiveness of Baltimore City in the years ahead,” Ferguson said. “The level of concern I have for the casino is the same as for the small businesses in Fells Point or Federal Hill or Westport.”

Daniel Kay, who owns a small business in Silver Spring, likes Horseshoe because its windows allow more natural light than other casinos — it doesn’t feel “dark and gloomy.” But he now prefers MGM because it is closer to home, and there is a lot to do outside the casino at National Harbor.

Kay also said he is wary enough about Horseshoe’s location that “I never set foot outside of Horseshoe, not even to the gas station next door.”

Jake Rosenberg, a Washington-area blackjack and poker player who has sampled the area casinos, said it is all about convenience.

“If I lived closer to Horseshoe I would probably go more often than I do,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense for me to drive past MGM and Maryland Live to go to Horseshoe.”

Live Casino & Hotel in Anne Arundel County, formerly Maryland Live, has also been affected by MGM, seeing its revenue eroded about 16 percent since MGM opened. The casino, adjacent to Arundel Mills mall, plans to open a 310-room hotel this spring.

The reality, Woinski said, “is every casino is the same. You go to your favorite games and play.”

But casinos can differentiate themselves with differing offerings, restaurants or entertainment — even the payouts or odds on games can vary slightly.

It has long been the city’s vision to link downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor to a new entertainment district anchored by Horseshoe and the new Hammerjacks. But the area between the stadiums and the casino, with its industrial buildings, acres of parking and vacant lots, now feels less like a destination than a no man’s land.

“You’d like to be able to have a seamless pedestrian experience so they can walk from downtown — any of the hotels or from the convention center,” the BDC’s Cole said. “Imagine a walk where it’s vibrant from one end to the other. Now, you hit spots where there’s just not any activity.”

Last week, Kevin Butler, president and chief executive of Hammerjacks Entertainment Group, said, “We’ll be fully open in 2019. You’ve got a billion dollars worth of stadiums as neighbors, the casino is now open and I envision this resembling a Bourbon Street atmosphere with restaurants and nightlife,” Butler said. “And there’s plenty of parking.”

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