Maryland casinos August gains; MGM baccarat dealer conspiracy

Maryland’s six casinos reported an overall modest gaming revenue increase in August, while the state’s biggest casino dealt with a case of insider cheating.

Figures released by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency showed the state’s casino operators generated combined gaming revenue of $146.3m in August, a 6.4% improvement over the same month last year, although a minor reduction from July 2018’s $146.5m.

Five of the six casinos reported year-on-year revenue gains, with the biggest gain coming via Ocean Downs Casino, which shot up 19% to $8.27m thanks to last December’s addition of the properties first table games. Ocean Downs’ 18 tables contributed over $912k to August’s result.

August’s lone decliner was Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which reported gaming revenue falling 3.7% year-on-year to $21m. The Horseshoe is a joint operation of Caesars Entertainment and JACK Entertainment, and the latter entity was recently rumored to be putting its casino operations up for sale.

As for the rest of the field, MGM Resorts’ National Harbor maintained its usual spot atop the revenue chart with $58.3m (+10.3%), followed by Cordish Gaming’s Live! Casino & Hotel’s $47m (+5.1%), while Hollywood Casino Perryville ($6.6m, +5.2%) and Rocky Gap ($5m, +4.9%) brought up the rear.

National Harbor made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week as word broke that federal prosecutors had charged a former baccarat dealer with involvement in a cheating conspiracy dating back to September 2017. The local NBC affiliate identified the dealer as Ming Zhang, who is facing a charge of conspiracy to transport stolen funds.

According to the report, Zhang exposed a portion of his deck of cards to at least one co-conspirator, who took a photograph of the exposed cards. Zhang failed to shuffle the cards, allowing his co-conspirator to make large bets based on his advance knowledge of what cards would be dealt next.

Zhang was due to appear in US District Court on Tuesday. The documents charging Zhang state that he is believed to have had other scamming partners.

Virginia multimillion-dollar casino plans announced

A new $150-million resort casino for Bristol, Virginia, has won the favor of the community, Bristol Herald Courier reported. Bristol essentially straddles the Virginia-Tennessee border, with a city of the same name found just across the state line. Backers believe that it will have a “transformative” effect on the city’s economy, as well as that of the region and the state.

Virginia multimillion-dollar casino plans announcedThe resort, with a working name of Bristol Resort and Casino, is a proposal created by two prominent Virginia business leaders, Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy. It is expected to be located on the site of the former Bristol Mall, which occupied a 49-acre tract of land before it closed at the end of August last year. It will offer a casino with around 100,000 square feet, which will be integrated into one of the former primary stores, such as Sears or J.C. Penney.

A comparable amount of space would be allocated for entertainment and “family-friendly” attractions. There will also be a 25,000-square-foot sportsbook, a hotel with as many 1,000 rooms and retail and restaurant spaces. The resort could employ as many as 2,000 area residents the first year and more than 5,200 within seven years.

Stacy purchased the property this past June for $2.6 million. He explained, “Jim and I have been blessed with successful business careers here in Southwest Virginia. We are putting that success behind this major project to benefit the entire region, building the Bristol Resort and Casino here at the Bristol Mall. What that means in real terms is that we are not asking for any government support for this project. Our plan is to build it all with private dollars. This is our chance to provide lasting, meaningful support to a community that has supported us for so many years.”

McGlothlin, the chairman and CEO of The United Company and owner of the Olde Farm golf course, said, “This is personal for me. I have lived and worked here my entire life. Everyone in the region, and across the state, knows the major challenges we face, many of which are unique to Southwest Virginia. From the loss of jobs, and limited career opportunities, to the opioid epidemic, these challenges have been well documented. This project is our chance at a ‘moon-shot’. We want to give local residents a bright and secure future for many generations to come. Good-paying jobs are the key to giving folks a reason to stay in the region and also to move here. At the end of the day, that’s why I’m doing this, to help folks in this place I call home, Southwest Virginia.”

He further stated, “Not one dollar is coming from the city of Bristol, the state of Virginia or the federal government. Clyde and myself are going to put all the money up for this.”

The deal isn’t in the clear yet. Gambling still has to be legalized in the state by the Virginia General Assembly. If the resort is approved, it could mean as much as $26.8 million in tax revenue to Bristol after seven years.