ore Maryland casinos are reopening after mandatory closures due to COVID-19. Horseshoe Casino Baltimore opened its doors early Friday for its top-tier customers, and for the general public on Sunday. MGM National Harbor and Live Casino & Hotel in Anne Arundel County open to the public today, the latter doing so after a week of limited access for rewards members.
At Horseshoe, there is a high-tech temperature scan at the door which takes visitors’ picture with their mask on and then another picture before entering the gaming floor. “Most people might realize that masks are generally not allowed in a casino, however, we have a new process at the entry point. We have you temporarily lower your mask, we get a great picture of you with our world-class surveillance system and we welcome you inside the casino,” said Sr. Vice President and General Manager Randy Conroy, WBAL-TV 11 reports.
Once inside, everything is set up for social distancing. Every other slot machine is out of service, table games are at half capacity, and hand sanitizer is everywhere. Every single chip, over 1 million in the casino, has been sanitized. The casino was sanitized every day.
When MGM National Harbor reopens to the public on Monday, prospective guests can expect “contactless” check-ins, single-use baccarat cards and Plexiglass galore to guard against COVID-19. Officials said the three-year-old resort in Prince George’s County will open to 50% capacity, and its hotel will open roughly a third of its rooms, three months after a state order forced casinos to close as the coronavirus began to spread, as reported by The Washington Times. National Harbor’s check-in desks will be covered by Plexiglass windows, as are other points around the property, and only half will be open to create distance.
A key element of its “contactless” strategy is encouraging usage of MGM’s smartphone app, which will allow guests to check in, verify their identification and pay, as well as make reservations at the resort’s eight restaurants.
“We spent a lot of time doing financial models and they were all wrong. Results have been significantly better than expected,” said Jorge Perez, president of MGM National Harbor, and who oversees eight casinos for MGM Resorts, some of which already have opened.
Gov. Larry Hogan restricted Maryland casinos to no more than 50% of occupancy when he permitted them to reopen as early as June 19. At Horseshoe, Conroy said 50% would amount to 3,400 people. The numbers of slot machines have been cut in half — from 2,100 to 1,050 — and the numbers of table game positions also trimmed. At MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Perez said about 4,200 people could be accommodated under the new limits.
Maryland’s other casinos — Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Cumberland and Ocean Downs near Ocean City — reopened last week.
The hope of Maryland’s casinos and the state is that — with major sporting leagues and movie theaters still closed due to the pandemic — there is enough pent-up demand for entertainment and patrons are confident that precautions such as masks and distancing can keep them safe in a spacious indoor environment.
“Customers really have no place to spend their money right now,” said Gordon Medenica, director of the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, as reported by The Baltimore Sun. That helps explain, he said, why lottery sales, which were down more than 20% during the beginning of the pandemic in March and April “have just come back gangbusters. Last week, for example, sales were up 21%,” Medenica said Thursday during a meeting of the State Lottery & Gaming Control Commission.
Maryland casinos generated $717.5 million for the state during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019. With the current fiscal year ending Tuesday, Medenica said the state’s share will be down about $190 million, or more than 20%.