Maryland’s newest casino a victim of Baltimore’s racial politics?

TAGs: Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Maryland

horseshoe-casino-baltimore-riotsMaryland casino gaming revenue hit a new record in May but the state’s newest casino posted a new monthly low.

On Friday, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency reported that the state’s five casinos generated $96.3m in revenue in May, easily topping the $91m record set this March. The tally is 27% higher than May 2014’s figure but the four casinos that were open for business last May collectively saw their winnings fall 1.9% year-on-year.

The state’s market-leading Maryland Live! casino reported revenue down around 2.5% year-on-year to just over $58m, although that’s up significantly from April’s $50.9m. Hollywood Casino Perryville was also in negative territory, falling 9% to $7.1m, while Ocean Downs was up 5.8% to $5m and Rocky Gap rose 12.7% to $2.5m.

The state’s newest casino, the Caesars Entertainment/Rock Gaming joint venture Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, reported revenue of $21.9m, well off its March peak of $24m and the lowest full-month total since the property opened last August. The Shoe’s VP of marketing, Noah Hirsch, told the Baltimore Business Journal that the property was suffering from a problem of perception following the April 27 riots in Baltimore, which were sparked by incidents of police brutality against the city’s black residents.

Following those riots, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a five-day curfew, which forced the Shoe to curtail its operating hours. Hirsch said the Shoe was located in “a safe, secure environment” and “perception rather than reality” was keeping customers away. Hirsch is hoping that the Shoe’s status as the only state casino offering outdoor slots will give business a boost over the summer months.

Hhirsch may feel like Baltimore’s dodgy reputation is unwarranted, but crime stats beg to differ. Last week, the Baltimore Sun reported that the city suffered 42 homicides in May, a total not seen since 1972. Meanwhile, the month’s total number of arrests fell by more than half from the same month last year.

Activists have accused the police of slacking off in an apparent bid to show residents what life would be like without their presence, while the Fraternal Order of Police suggested officers were walking on eggshells rather than face possible charges of police brutality. Either way, it seems the Shoe’s perception problem may turn out to be more reality-based, at least in the short term.


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