Casino machine games
Over the past 15 months, Maryland’s three largest casinos — Maryland Live, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Hollywood Casino Perryville — have kicked 1, 350 slot machines to the curb. That’s a 16 percent cut to their slots to make room for more table games, restaurant space, entertainment and other amenities, all of which are increasing in value to casinos as interest in slots slides, particularly among millennials.
Traditionally a cash cow for the industry, slots are losing some of their appeal in lots of places around the country. It’s a trend that has casino executives concerned and busy dreaming up new ways to bolster slot games and make them more attractive. The dominance of slots has waned even in the gambling stronghold of Nevada, where the number of machines has dropped from a high of 217, 000 in 2001 to 175, 000 last year. And slot earnings have fallen there as well: Nevada casinos experienced a 20 percent reduction in slot revenue between 2007 and 2014, according to the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
The decline in the number of machines in Maryland has potential revenue implications for the state. Maryland taxes slot machine earnings at casinos at rates between 57 to 61 percent, with the exception of Rocky Gap Casino, where slots are taxed at 50 percent. By contrast, table games in the state are taxed at a 20 percent rate.
In 2014, Maryland casinos generated $833 million in gross gaming revenue.
Although he acknowledges that some of his colleagues in the Maryland legislature believe that the casinos are switching from slots to table games to avoid the higher tax, Del. Eric G. Luedtke ( D-Montgomery) says he is not troubled by the shift.
“I think it’s an expected part of the business, ” said Luedtke, the House chairman of the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight. “Casinos are right-sizing and responding to consumer demand, and I think they’re all getting ready for the opening of MGM next year.”
Casino behemoth MGM is scheduled to open its $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor Casino, overlooking the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, in the latter half of 2016. Plans call for it to have 3, 600 slot machines and 140 table games.
“Once MGM opens, we should do a study of the tax rates and see if they are at the right levels, ” Luedtke said.
Gamblers who prefer slots to table games needn’t panic yet. Casinos aren’t about to abandon slots. They still make up the vast bulk of gambling revenue and are a mainstay of the $240 billion industry.
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