After a year of delays

Caesars' Horseshoe and Live! casinos to debut Maryland in-person sports betting Friday

Caesars Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in Maryland.
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Casinos in Baltimore announced in-person sports betting will take off on Friday, December 10. Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland both plan to launch their sportsbooks with ribbon-cutting ceremonies, providing they are granted the final state approval after two days of controlled demonstrations earlier this week. The announcement comes the same day Maryland casinos reported 23% revenue growth during November.

Horseshoe will open sports wagering on Friday afternoon, following a ceremony scheduled to include Mayor Brandon Scott, Governor Larry Hogan, former Ravens Torrey Smith and Adalius Thomas, and former Dunbar and NBA player Muggsy Bogues. 

Governor Hogan will also be present at Live! Casino in Hanover, which announced that the ceremonial first bet at its FanDuel sportsbook will be made by former Ravens player Ed Reed.

The maximum allowable bet will be $5 million for any sporting event. That limit was a point of contention during the public comment period on the state’s proposed sports betting regulations. 

DraftKings and FanDuel, the fantasy sports and sports betting sites, had argued for no limits. However, problem gambling experts said the maximum should be no more than $100,000. 

“It’s an issue that we looked at from all sides”, said John Martin, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which considered 351 pages of public comments. 

The Cordish Companies' Live! is among the Maryland casinos that have renovated their facilities to create sports-themed bars and restaurants where patrons can bet on games. Betting sites also may be licensed at the state’s thoroughbred horse racing tracks and the Baltimore stadium homes of the Ravens and Orioles among others, as well as via apps. 

MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County plans to launch sports betting Thursday, provided the state approves it. Two other Maryland casinos, Hollywood Casino Perryville and Ocean Downs in Worcester County, are also planning to offer sports betting but do not have a timetable. The Rocky Gap casino near Cumberland will not offer sports wagering. 

The state will levy a 15% tax on the facilities’ sports gambling proceeds, with most of the money dedicated to public schools. Once all of the state’s in-person and online sports gambling is up and running, the industry is expected to take in about $100 million a year.

Last month, Horseshoe, Live! Casino and MGM National Harbor joined forces to demand the state the acceleration of the sports betting license approval process, which had been delayed in many occasions. 

The casinos had been found eligible to hold a license by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission. However, the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) had to provide the final sign-off to launch. In a joint letter, the casinos claimed the SWARC had failed to follow the process outlined by the legislature.  

The state's gambling activity recovers

Maryland’s casinos have continued to draw in the gamblers in November 2021, with total gaming revenue at all five properties reaching $160.4 million, up 23% in a year-over-year comparison, according to the latest report.

This past month, Horseshoe Casino had $15.7 million, with a 2.8% increase, taking the third place after Live! Casino & Hotel at Arundel Mills, which saw $58.2 million in gaming revenue, up 29.3%; and MGM National Harbor, which had a November revenue of $57.9 million, up 22.7%. 

Maryland’s three smaller casinos - Hollywood Casino, Ocean Downs and Rocky Gap Casino - saw an increase of 19.5%, 30.4% and 29.5%, respectively.