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Maryland Live! Will Offer Sophisticated Virtual Games

By Bill Ordine

It's always good to come home. In this case, coming home means spending time again with the sports fans of Baltimore. A few years back, I scribbled for the sports section of the city's daily newspaper, so it's great to be writing for the region's No. 1 newspaper devoted solely to Baltimore's sports fans.

In this space, we'll be talking about gambling, the complete spectrum of gambling -- Maryland's maturing casino industry, horse racing, poker, sports wagering. If it has a Baltimore or Maryland connection and someone is giving odds on it, we'll be covering it. We hope you'll enjoy.

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The next big thing on the local gambling landscape is opening sometime in June -- the Maryland Live! Casino at the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover.

Maryland Live! will be the state's third casino -- joining gambling halls already in Perryville and at Ocean Downs in Worcester County --  and it will be the grandest.

Maryland casinos currently feature slots and what are known as virtual table games, but the new casino, a Cordish Company production, promises to rival any casino experience in the world.

"We intend to dispel the notion that you can't create excitement in a virtual atmosphere," said Rob Norton, the casino's president and general manager.

Although Maryland Live! will be the largest and most ambitious casino in Maryland to date, Norton said: "Our goals are much loftier than merely being the big dog in Maryland. You would be able to drop this casino in Atlantic City or Las Vegas and be able to compete with casinos there."

On the gaming floor, Maryland Live! will have 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games. Of that total, 3,000 will be turned on when the doors open in June.

But it will be the virtual table games and the Maryland Live! presentation of those electronic games that will separate the new casino from a so-called "slots box."

The table games at Maryland Live! will feature digital chips and apparatuses (cards, roulette wheels, dice), but rather than merely having an image of a dealer seemingly conducting the game, these table games will be arranged in a traditional pit. The hosts manning the pits will assist customers and help move the games along.

"No matter what your game," Norton said, "if you can find it in a normal casino, you'll be able to find it at Maryland Live!"

A component of the gaming floor will be the R Bar, described as a circular-shaped, interactive bar, themed along the game of roulette. Customers will be able to play roulette and other games there in an energized atmosphere.

Along with the gaming, Maryland Live! will be providing a culinary getaway for customers.

Opening immediately will be the Marketplace dining area, with three options. Live! Market Buffet will offer an array of waistline-threatening cuisine. A Maryland favorite, Phillips Seafood, will feature a casual dining eatery. Additionally, Noodles will be an authentic Asian noodle bar.

After the opening, more restaurants will be open, including The Cheesecake Factory; a Bobby's Burger Place, a casual eating offshoot of celebrity chef Bobby Flay; and The Prime Rib.

There's more planned for Maryland Live! Stay tuned.

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Maryland's two operating casinos earned more than $16.3 million in gross revenues in March. Hollywood Casino in Perryville generated more than $12.2 million, and Oceans Downs generated more than $4 million.

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Pimlico Race Course's spring racing season is currently being run. Mark your calendar for the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes. The middle jewel of the Triple Crown is May 19. The entire Preakness Weekend, including Black-Eyed Susan Day, will feature 16 races.

Live racing at Pimlico for the spring meet is Thursday through Sunday, with happy hours on Fridays.

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Another baseball season has begun, and diehard Orioles fans have learned that they have to summon all the faith and optimism the human spirit can muster to think this may be the year that the O's climb above .500 and maybe, just maybe, make the playoffs.

Once in the playoffs, who knows? You can always dream. Look at the St. Louis Cardinals last season -- left for dead in September and world champions in November.

But the oddsmakers have a way of inflicting their own cruel reality.

The reality coming out of Las Vegas is that the Orioles have been given 200-1 odds of winning the World Series, the longest of long shots in the American League, and 100-1 to win the AL pennant, according to vegasinsider.com. Only the Houston Astros have longer odds to win the World Series, at 300-1.

R.J. Bell of pregame.com reported that the pre-Opening Day over-under total for wins for the Orioles stood at 69 1/2.

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On the poker scene, a local card shark won the main event of the Delaware Poker Classic, held at Delaware Park in early April.

Adam Cook, from Baltimore, collected $72,641 and a championship bracelet in the $1,070 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament.

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Lost in the suspense surrounding who, in Maryland, won a piece of the largest lottery jackpot in history, the enormous $656 million Mega Millions jackpot, was the fact that four other tickets were sold that matched the first five numbers, but missed the Mega Ball.

Those four tickets each earned $250,000. The big one was sold at a 7-Eleven in Milford Mill, and two of the smaller tickets were also sold at 7-Eleven stores, in Timonium and Baltimore. 

Issue 172: April 2012