Md.'s first slots casino opens ahead of grand opening
After years of bitter debate over slot machines, Maryland's first casino opened its doors to the public at 8 a.m. Monday, three days ahead of a planned grand opening.
Hollywood Casino Perryville, located in the state's northeastern corner, was issued a license Sunday by the state to open early after a successful trial run on Saturday night that benefited charity.
"The 1st casino in Maryland, Hollywood Casino Perryville, is now open!" trumpeted a posting on the casino's Facebook page shortly after 8 a.m Monday. "Now let the games begin!"
"By 8:15, they had about 79 people through the door," said Brent Burkhardt, a publicist for the casino.
A grand opening featuring Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is still planned at the facility, owned by Penn National Gaming, for 10 a.m. on Thursday.
The Perryville site has been the one bright spot in Maryland's fledgling slots program, which was authorized by voters in a November 2008 referendum. The public vote was proposed by O'Malley to end a legislative stalemate over an issue that dominated the term of his predecessor, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who is trying to win his job back in November.
The casino features various video-screen-style slot machines, some made to look like their old-fashioned predecessors. But most of the games look little like that; many incorporate modern-day culture as themes. Among them: "Sex & the City" and Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Rumble.
The floor includes a handful of "electronic table games" -- machines made to simulate three-card poker, blackjack and roulette -- without the cards, chips or wheel. The site has a buffet-style restaurant and gift shop.
Members of a state commission that picks slots locations gave the site favorable reviews after visiting last week.
A second Maryland slots site, at Ocean Downs Racetrack on the Eastern Shore, is scheduled to open Dec. 16 with 750 machines. Its owners had advertised a Memorial Day opening, which was pushed back because of asbestos and construction problems. The site will eventually have 800 machines, the owner said.
Meanwhile, the fate of the state's two largest facilities, in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore, remains in limbo.
| September 27, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
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