Baltimore’s First Casino Opens with Vegas-Style Extravaganza and 15,000 Customers
The Horseshoe Casino opened in Baltimore this past week, making it the first casino to open in the city. Caesars Entertainment held the grand opening, and they turned the event into a Las Vegas style extravaganza.
The festivities includes showgirls in glittery gold and beaded loincloths. High rollers were invited to attend, and they were seen in high heels and evening gowns sipping glasses of champagne. The whole event seemed a bit surreal for Baltimore, if the AP reporter on the scene can be believed.
$442 Million Casino Development
The Horseshoe Casino is the latest bid by Caesars Entertainment Corporation to turn around its fortunes. Baltimore’s first gaming venue cost $442 million to build, which is a fraction of what a land-based gaming property would cost to build in Las Vegas. The building of a casino in Maryland is an indication of a new market trend. Gambling destinations like Tunica County, Mississippi and Atlantic City, New Jersey have fallen out of favor.
In their place is the local land-based casino. Twenty-five years ago, land casinos were found in only 2 states: New Jersey and Nevada. These days, 40 U.S. states house brick-and-mortar gaming venues. When tribal gaming came to the United States, it was only a matter of time before state legislatures took the next logical step: approving private non-tribal gaming locations. Lawmakers also saw casino-style gaming as a way to save the horse racing tracks and dog tracks across the USA, so gaming machines and even gaming tables were installed.
Horseshoe Casino Following the Trends
David Schwartz is the Director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV. Schwartz told ABC News, “For a while the trend was to build casinos in destinations like Las Vegas, Biloxi, Atlantic City. Now, the trend has shifted to be more building casinos in urban areas like Cincinnati, Columbus, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and now, Baltimore.”
In short, casino gambling has become localized in the United States. With only a few exceptions, most states offer native gambling destinations. In most cases, the customer base can drive across the state line to find alternative gaming venues, so the competition is intense to lure customers. Ultimately, offering gamblers a Vegas-style experience in their local towns and cities is the best way to build a loyal customer base. That’s how a Las Vegas style opening can happen in Baltimore.
Public Attitudes Have Changed
Mr. Schwartz says the trends are driven by cultural factors. The American people are more willing in 2014 to accept casinos in their midst, when 30 or 40 years ago, they found them a bit more unsightly, and wanted them shunted off to places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Schwartz added, “There’s a growing embrace of gambling. Initially it was something people wanted to keep away from the urban core. Now, it’s a part of American life and if you’re going to have it, you should have it in a place where there are a lot of people.”
Gambling is more of a part of people’s lives now than it was a generation ago. Indian casinos are not the only reason for that trend. Most states have lotteries now, and 45 states are now members of the multi-state lotteries, Powerball and Mega-Millions.
Online Gambling: A Modern Reality
On the Internet, average Americans can turn on their computer and gamble within minutes. All they need is a credit or debit card, or even a web wallet like Neteller. Even when online gambling is banned, it is easy (though perhaps not as safe) for a US player to gamble online.
With gambling around them everywhere, it makes little sense to voters or politicians to ban land-based gaming in local areas. Most states prefer to legalize, regulate, and tax land casinos. The tax revenues are not direct taxation, so it gives states alternate ways to collect funds. A majority of lawmakers see it as a win-win situation.
Horseshoe Casino’s Financial Outlook
Whether the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore will be a financial success for Caesars Entertainment is a question. It is the last of 5 casinos approved by the Maryland Gaming Commission to be opened. The competition has had a chance to build a customer base, which is why a gala opening is important–The Horseshoe has to be bigger and brighter than the competition.
Caesars Entertainment believes it will be a big success for the gaming company, while adding its own contribution to the landscape of Baltimore. Caesars CEO Gary Loveman spoke this week of the urban renewal that the Horseshoe Casino would bring to its section of Baltimore. Loveman said, “This is an urban casino, meant to meld into the rest of the city.” Loveman predicted the casino would lead to development between it and Ravens Stadium.
In its first day of operation, the Horseshoe Casino welcomed over 15,000 visitors, according to the Baltimore Sun.