Crowds Turn Out for Opening of Maryland's Newest Casino

Gale Horton Gay | 6/13/2012, 1:07 p.m.

Amid much fanfare - helicopters circling overhead, Las Vegas style showgirls walking the floor, exotic dancers gyrating above a bar, hordes waiting for hours and a flurry of speeches - Maryland's newest and biggest casino opened on June 6 at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, Md.

Maryland Live! Casino, the third largest casino in America, represents an investment of more than $500 million and will employ approximately 1,500 workers upon completion - 900 as of the opening. The casino, which is the largest in Maryland, sits on about 12 acres with more than 330,000 square feet of gaming floor, restaurants, performance venues and bars.

The 160,000-square-foot gaming floor includes 3,200 Las Vegas-style slot machines and electronic games including blackjack, roulette, mini-baccarat and pai gow poker.

"It's great that it's so close by," said Shirley R. Hamilton, chief of staff for Maryland Delegate Marvin E. Holmes Jr. [District 23B]. As she played a penny slot machine during a private VIP party held hours before the opening, she added, "I think it's exciting."

Hamilton added that the residential community that she lives in serves persons age 55 and older and they often takes trips to Hollywood Casino at Charlestown Races in West Virginia and other destinations out of state. She said she would like to see more of those dollars remain in state.

"I would love to have it [a casino] in Prince George's County," said Hamilton. "We need the money. I don't want any more taxes of any kind."

While she chatted, Hamilton's slot machine started to ding - indicating that her penny plays resulted in a $43 win.

Currently a work group is evaluating whether gaming should be expanded in Maryland, and some Prince George's officials are hopeful that Prince George's County will be the next site. The Maryland General Assembly is expected to review the group's findings during a special session in July.

Early in the evening as hundreds of eager gamblers waited outside the venue for the official opening - some for hours - costumed stilt walkers worked the crowd.

Rosie Crawford of Hyattsville was among the first 20 or so people in line at 5 p.m.

"I wanted to come out and enjoy the grand opening," said Crawford. "I knew it was going to be a lot of people."

Deborah Davis of Southeast said she arrived at 11 a.m. with one goal in mind.

"I love to gamble," said Davis. "I love money. Nothing is free in America that's why I am here to get their money."

Wilma Alcala of Temple Hills showed up with her daughter Shally Roberson.

"We need to win some money to get our books," said Alcala adding that she was pleased about the casino's opening. However, she added she didn't want to see a casino established at National Harbor because jobs were promised to Marylanders but outsiders got those jobs.

So many people wanted to check out the new casino that thousands didn't make it inside before its closing at 2 a.m. and traffic was gridlocked along every major road leading to the casino.