Anne Arundel casino: It's not Vegas, but it's close

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

They started filing in at 8 p.m., packed the tables by 11:30 p.m. and were placing their first bets when the clock struck midnight.

Gamblers streamed into Maryland Live! Casino on Wednesday night in Anne Arundel County for the opening of 122 table games Thursday. While many in attendance were hard-core players, some just wanted to see what the fuss was about.

"I'm going to play roulette and blackjack and whatever this is called," said D.C. resident Courtney MacGowens, pointing to the Big Six wheel. "I came when the casino first opened, and none of this was here."

In addition to the wheel, the casino ordered 306,600 chips, 118,080 decks of cards and 2,500 dice for the grand opening. Maryland Live! also hired 510 people from its 12-week dealer school.

"We had two mock casinos to give them some confidence," said Patrick Brewster, who oversaw the dealer training. "That was instrumental in calming their nerves."

Bob Kaloz, a frequent Maryland Live! customer who spent most of the opening night with a Borgata Poker cap pulled down to his eyes, was invited to one of the dry runs. An Upper Marlboro resident who used to deal blackjack and craps at Prince George's County firehouses back when that was legal, Kaloz said he gave the new dealers some pointers.

"The dealers were obviously nervous," he said. "I kept telling them to take their time and remember what they learned in school."

The Linthicum casino isn't the first one in the Free State to offer more than just slot machines. Hollywood Casino Perryville opened 20 table games on March 6. The sheer number of tables at Maryland Live!, though, along with the attached restaurants, flashing lights and sequin-clad models, are meant to approximate the atmosphere in America's two biggest gambling hot spots.

"I've been to Atlantic City, [N.J.,] I've been to Vegas," Elkridge resident Michele Roomets said. "Now it's $5 worth of gas versus $400 worth of airfare."

Maryland Live! officials expect revenue to rise more than 20 percent from the casino's already state-leading intake. Competition is on the horizon, however -- Caesars Entertainment is scheduled to open a casino with 80-110 table games in Baltimore in 2014, while a new Prince George's County casino can open in 2016.

The latter is expected to be an $800 million MGM Resorts International facility located at National Harbor, though the state will be accepting bids through May 10.

"It takes me like a half-hour to get up here," Kaloz said. "But once that Prince George's one opens up? I'll have to go see what it's like."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner