Horseshoe Baltimore, the city’s first downtown casino, opened nearly a year ago on August 26, 2014, but the $442 million, 122,000-square-foot gambling facility arguably couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune time.
An unusually harsh winter forced the city into hibernation as the first three months of 2015 began with temperatures averaging below the freezing mark.
A mid-February snowstorm that dumped up to a foot of snow also didn’t do any favors for Baltimore’s tourism and foot traffic.
Of course, then all hell broke lose following the death of Freddy Gray in April as rioters took over “Charm City” in response to the 25-year-old’s death in the back of a police van.
However, amidst the unseasonable climate and chaos of civil disorder, all was right at Caesars’ Horseshoe venue, the company announcing this week that July brought in $24.38 million in revenues, its highest 30-day period since opening 12 months ago.
Though the Orioles’ deep playoff run in MLB last fall and the Ravens’ playoff push in the NFL in January has been given credit for attracting customers to the gaming venue’s restaurant and bars, poker might be even more responsible for the casino’s 2014-2015 fruition.
“When you open a new casino, you’re not sure what to expect, in terms of what will work,” Noah Hirsch, GM of Horseshoe Baltimore told Press Box. 365 days later, it’s apparent that the World Series of Poker-branded poker room, another entity under the Caesars umbrella, is without question “working.”
Last year, the WSOP Circuit visited Baltimore from February 26 to March 9, smack in the middle of blustery and snowy conditions.
Regardless, the Main Event attracted 670 entries paying the $1,675 buy-in, more than established Circuit Events including at Foxwoods, Harrah’s Atlantic City, and even Los Angeles’ Bicycle Casino, albeit by a single entry.
The tour stop was seen as such a success that the Horseshoe Baltimore will be visited twice during the 2015-2016 campaign, the first beginning on Thursday, and a second, less snowy winter visit beginning on March 24th. Anthony Chester, Horseshoe poker room director, said he called WSOP in hopes of pushing the winter event to early spring, and by the end of his conversation with WSOP tournament director Jack Effel they were “offering us a second stop,” Chester claims.
Poking the Trend
Horseshoe’s assertion that poker is strong seems to go against the grain in other parts of the country, specifically the gambling meccas.
In January, Caesars’ own LINQ Poker Room closed its doors, joining several other Vegas closures including rooms at Circus Circus, Palms, and Tropicana. Back east, the Taj Mahal shut down its poker room in February, with Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Robert Griffin saying at the time, “Poker is a money loser for us.”
But in Maryland, all forms of gaming seem to be performing strong. Last month, the Chesapeake State reported a 30 percent annual increase for lottery and casino gambling, with plenty of optimism remaining moving forward.
“I think you’re going to see big growth numbers on the casino side for at least a couple or three years,” Gordon Medenica, director of the state Lottery and Gaming Control Agency said. Poker is likely to be a big part of those gains as the WSOP doubles its presence and the MGM National Harbor is slated to open in the second half of 2016.