Laurel Park

Laurel Park

Jim McCue

Maryland Commission Suggests Gaming Changes

Maryland is looking for ways to spur interest in developing VLT parlors.

A commission overseeing development of video lottery terminal parlors in Maryland said Jan. 11 the state should examine ways to attract more interest in available gaming licenses and study similar operations in other states that have expanded their offerings.

The Video Lottery Terminal Facilities Location Commission has asked the Maryland General Assembly to take action, according to published reports. Of chief concern is the lack of a bidder for a VLT facility at a state park in western Maryland and ongoing legal issues that have stymied development of a gaming parlor in Baltimore.

Only two of five legislated VLT parlors have opened—Hollywood Casino at Perryville in northeastern Maryland and Ocean Downs Casino on the Eastern Shore. A temporary facility at Arundel Mills Mall south of Baltimore could be operating by the end of 2011.

The commission’s call for a review of the VLT legislation, however, comes as some lawmakers are considering adding more VLT locations. Laurel Park in central Maryland and bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway south of Washington, D.C., are potential candidates, though any expansion would have to be approved via constitutional amendment.

Maryland is developing VLT parlors as neighboring states--Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia--have expanded beyond gaming machines to full-style casino gambling including table games.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Lottery, which oversees operation of VLTs, reported that the Hollywood Casino at Perryville had generated $13.38 million for the state in roughly three months of operation through December 2010. The state receives 48.5% of gross revenue from the casino operated by Penn National Gaming Inc.

Racing purses, which get 7% of gross VLT revenue, earned $1.93 million through the end of 2010, while a racetrack capital improvement fund (2.5%) got $689,900. The racing funds are split 80% Thoroughbred and 20% Standardbred.

Racing interests haven't indicated how or when the VLT revenue will be funneled to purses at Laurel, the only track currently open for live racing in Maryland.

The VLT facility at Ocean Downs, a harness track, opened Jan. 4. Live racing will commence in the summer.

Thoroughbred racing interests, as part of an agreement on live race dates for 2011, will ask Maryland lawmakers to adjust the VLT law so the capital improvement money can be used to support racing operations at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course.