By Brian Jewell
The eastern half of the United States gained a bevy of new gaming options this year as casino developments opened from New Jersey to Ohio, Maryland, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Ohio made its long-awaited foray into casino gaming this year, with three casinos opening in different parts of the state. Atlantic City, New Jersey, saw a new concept in upscale gaming resorts with the opening of the new Revel property. Maryland Live! Casino, a new large-scale casino made a big splash in the Baltimore area.
In Biloxi, Mississippi, Jimmy Buffett’s brand ventured into gaming with the opening of the new Margaritaville casino. And Baton Rouge, Louisiana, expanded its gaming offerings with the opening of L’Auberge Baton Rouge, which overlooks the Mississippi River.
Three for Ohio
In 2009, a state constitutional amendment was passed to permit casinos in Ohio, and this year three properties opened in the Buckeye State.
In Cleveland, Horseshoe Casino opened in May in a historic building downtown. The company spent $350 million to transform the historic structure, creating 96,000 square feet of gaming space that features 2,100 slot machines, 60 table games and a 30-table World Series of Poker Room.
Penn National Gaming opened two Hollywood Casino properties in Ohio as well. Hollywood Casino Toledo sits on a 44-acre site on the banks of the Maumee River. The $320 million casino has more than 2,000 slot machines and six table games, along with numerous restaurants and decor representing the 1930s Art Deco era in Hollywood.
Hollywood Casino Columbus opened this fall as the state’s largest gaming facility so far. Developers spent $400 million to build the casino with 130,000 square feet of gaming space that features 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Developers pulled out all the stops to create Revel Resort, a massive $1.15 billion gaming resort that opened in Atlantic City this spring. Eschewing some of the traditional norms of gaming destinations, Revel’s owners created a property that highlights openness, natural light and high-profile entertainment.
“The last thing that Atlantic City needed was another casino,” said Bob Franklin, the resort’s director of national sales. “So this property was built to be an entertainment resort first. We’re a full entertainment resort that happens to have a phenomenal casino.”
Visitors will find a modern glass facility at Revel, where windows in all of the public spaces afford a two-story view of the Atlantic Ocean. The lobby connects to a two-acre garden, and the resort has six swimming pools, including an indoor-outdoor pool and a saltwater pool. The property has 1,600 hotel rooms.
Guests can dine at any of 14 restaurants at the resort or stay up late at two on-site nightclubs. Ovation Hall attracts visitors from around the region with its lineup of A-list touring entertainers such as Beyoncé and Aerosmith.
Nature and entertainment are integrated into other parts of the casino as well.
“The casino has windows overlooking the ocean and natural daylight, which is unusual,” Franklin said. “We also have a theater in the middle of the casino that’s open to the public. We have live entertainment there nightly.”
Maryland Live! Casino opened this summer at the Arundel Mills Mall. Located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, the mall was already one of Maryland’s top tourist attractions, drawing some 14 million visitors every year.
The new $500 million casino further broadens the area’s appeal. This freestanding casino encompasses 330,000 square feet of space on a 12-acre site adjacent to the mall and near Baltimore Washington International Airport. The casino opened in two phases, one in the summer and one this fall, bringing a total of 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games like blackjack, roulette, minibaccarat and pai gow poker.
In addition to the gaming, the casino has a number of new restaurants. Bobby’s Burger Palace has 10 signature hamburgers created by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Other favorite national restaurants at the casino are the Cheesecake Factory, Phillips Seafood and the high-end steakhouse Prime Rib. A buffet and an authentic Asian wok and noodle bar round out the culinary offerings.
The casino has a direct entrance into Arundel Mills Mall, as well as a private motorcoach lobby for groups. There is no hotel at the property, but groups can stay at a number of hotels near the mall.