As a gambler of nearly 15 years, I have ventured to Atlantic City and Las Vegas to get my "sin" fix. But making those trips required a bit of planning as well as accommodations. Thus, I was very excited to hear that a casino was coming near to my home town of Baltimore, Maryland. There were huge debates on not just whether or not to build a casino, but where to place the new facility. Ideally, the funds generated from the new casino were to help bring the state out of debt and help fund Maryland schools. So naturally, I would feel better knowing the my gambling losses were being used within my home state.
The casino is owned by Cordish Company - they are also known for building Power Plant Live! in downtown Baltimore - a collection of bars/restaurants that have seen more turnover than a science & technology mutual fund. The facility is set up in Hanover, MD adjacent to a somewhat successful mall - Arundel Mills Mall. Thus, folks can easily get their shopping done and use the rest of their hard-earned loot to walk next door and gamble it all away.
Upon entering the facility on Saturday night, June 30, 2012 (less than one month after the casino opened), we noticed a multi-level parking garage with electronic signs telling the drivers which levels were full/available. So, my initial thought was that the designer of the facility paid close attention to detail. After parking on the fourth floor, we ascending down the elevators and were immediately placed in a queue whereby we were ushered out of the building, and then back inside in order to reduce congestion from the enormous amounts of people coming in/out of the casino. Silly, yes, but still a clever idea to help manage the crowds.
The casino was setup in typical casino fashion - dark red patterned floors, flashing lights, very loud noises, and some restaurants including a buffet. Friends of mine dined at BBP (Bobby's Burger Palace), and enjoyed the small, relatively inexpensive meal there. The casino was extremely crowded, so we knew that we might have some trouble finding some games to play there. I vaguely recall hearing that only slot machines would be available, but I had also heard that table games would be available too. I do not like to play the slot machines or electronic games, as I feel as if my fate has already been determined before I even press a button. Thus, I wondered about looking for the table games.
To my extreme disappointment, all of the table games were electronic too - 3-card poker, blackjack (called Royal Match), Let It Ride, even roulette and baccarat were all electronic. Not a single person maintaining the games. Furthermore, I could not even find a seat, as the electronic table games were so crowded, even the waiters behind the players were two rows deep. When folks venture out to gamble at the tables, they like the feel of the chips, handling the cards, and knowing that a machine will not determine your fate, but only the way the cards fall. Gamblers (for the most part) enjoy that face-to-face interaction with dealers, and seem to prefer a slower paced game rather than a piece of plastic and some flashing lights. If they wanted flashing lights and electronics, then they will hit the video poker machines (or their iPhones). I understand that Maryland lawmakers were not able to get live table games, but they should not try to pass them off as real table games (or even call the facility "Live!".
I also noticed a VIP room with a doorman. I casually strolled into that room and did not notice anything different aside from higher minimums - but only as high as $50 per play on the electronic table games.
Thus, I had to try my luck at the slot machines. Given that I have never really tried slot machines, I would need find one that I could pick up relatively easily. Big fail there. I found a machine in a section with a large sign showing "one cent". Thus, I parked myself on the seat, and fed a $20 bill into the machine. Looking at the controls, I noticed the minimum bet was 30 credits. Doing the math quickly in my head, I realized that these are not penny slots as advertised, but more than quarter slots - as each bet was at least 30 cents. So I placed my big 30 cent bet and pressed the "spin" button. The machine lit up and flashed three aces. The machine also said that I won 15 credits. However, looking down at my balance, I had just 1,985 credits. So I realized that I placed a 30 credit bet, the machine indicated that I won, but yet somehow, I was still down. Granted, this was my first time playing slot machines, but in all of my prior gambling experiences, whenever I won, I got to at least keep my bet and then collect the winnings. Clearly, this was not the case at this casino.
All those gambling nuances aside, the bigger problem for the casino were the players. Most of the players there appeared as if they could not afford to be gambling. Given the low minimums to play, the casino will attract lower income individuals to gamble. Don't get me wrong, everyone has a right to decide whether or not they want to gamble, but the idea is that gambling should be a practice of taking from the rich and giving to the poor/community.
In this casino's case, they are taking from the poor and giving to the rich and foolish spenders.
Although the casino was very crowded, I chalk that up more to the facility and experience being so new in Maryland. I would be very surprised to see the casino still crowded a year later if they remain with the same electronic table games format.
So for anyone that likes to gamble, I would highly suggest to avoid Casino Live!, and save your money for a trip to Atlantic City instead - as you will be just as disappointed as most folks there.