Casinos ask for 24/7 slots to ring in new year

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Photo - Patrons play the slot machines at Harrah's Casino Thursday, May 24, 2012 in Chester, Pa. When Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack opened its doors in this struggling city in January 2007, it was the state's third casino, a novelty that pulled in Philadelphia-area gamblers thrilled not to have to drive to Atlantic City. Five years later, Pennsylvania has 11 casinos, four in the Philadelphia area. Harrah's casino in Chester, a long-downtrodden city in the southern suburbs, also is closer to competition in Delaware and Maryland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Patrons play the slot machines at Harrah's Casino Thursday, May 24, 2012 in Chester, Pa. When Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack opened its doors in this struggling city in January 2007, it was the state's third casino, a novelty that pulled in Philadelphia-area gamblers thrilled not to have to drive to Atlantic City. Five years later, Pennsylvania has 11 casinos, four in the Philadelphia area. Harrah's casino in Chester, a long-downtrodden city in the southern suburbs, also is closer to competition in Delaware and Maryland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

It doesn't take all night to watch the ball drop and pop open the bubbly -- but don't tell that to Maryland's three casinos.

Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County, the Casino at Ocean Downs near Ocean City and Hollywood Casino in Perryville all have requested that the state let them

extend their hours around New Year's Eve with the option of switching over to complete 24/7 operation.

"They try to market themselves as party places," said Maryland gambling analyst James Karmel. "And what better time to party than New Year's Eve?"

All three are planning special events for New Year's Eve, ranging from concerts and steak dinners to slot promotions and prizes.

The opportunity is there thanks to the passage of Question 7 on the state ballot in November. The ballot initiative allowed all-day operation and table games like poker and blackjack, as well as a new casino in Prince George's County, though table games likely won't be in place until 2013.

The new casino, expected to be at National Harbor, can't open until

July 2016, but the current casinos are hoping their requests for longer hours will be approved when the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission meets Thursday.

"Management at Maryland Live Casino has undertaken all of the necessary steps to ensure it will be adequately staffed and fully prepared in all respects to receive members of the public twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week beginning December 27," casino President and General Manager Robert Norton wrote in a letter to the commission.

Maryland Live! -- located at Arundel Mills mall, making it the closest casino to the Washington area -- is the only one asking for all-day operation right off the bat. The casino has brought in by far the majority of revenue in the state, averaging $32.2 million a month since it opened in June.

Hollywood Casino is looking to stay open from 8 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28, to 2 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, then change hours to 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday and all-night operations on weekends.

Hollywood Casino would then move to 24/7 operation once rules governing table games were finalized, which is expected to happen in early 2013. The casino generated about $5.4 million in November, down 40.5 percent from November of last year, according to the Maryland Lottery.

The Casino at Ocean Downs is looking to stay open from Dec. 30 to 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1, with new regular operating hours of 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Thursday and not closing on weekends until 2 a.m. Mondays.

"Considering the seasonal nature of our location and current time of year, we do not believe our location can sustain full 24/7 operations at this time," casino General Manager Joseph Cavilla wrote in his letter.

The Casino at Ocean Downs generated $3.3 million in November, up 6.9 percent from last November. Its waterfront location means the casino draws more in the summer months -- it averaged $5.3 million a month in June, July and August of this year.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner