October 07, 2020

Live! Casino & Hotel takes a gamble on sports betting with new Sports & Social concept

When it opens, Live Casino & Hotel's new Sports & Social venue will have more than 50 large-screen TVs, two bars, mini bowling and casino games, as well as plenty of seating to catch a televised sports match.

If Maryland voters approve sports betting next month, the lounge will also offer visitors a few ways to place a wager on those games.

The casino broke ground on the Sports & Social concept about a month ago, Live's general manager, Anthony Faranca, said Wednesday. Construction on the $12 million project, which will take over the former Live Center Stage concert space, is set to be done by early next year.

Casino officials are betting sports gambling will also be permitted around the same time.

"I think it looks very promising," Joe Weinberg, CEO of the Live's parent company, the Cordish Gaming Group, said. "All of the surrounding states have already passed sports betting and implemented sports betting. Right now, those tax dollars are just going out of Maryland."

Voters will decide whether or not to enable betting on sports Nov. 3. The referendum is Question 2 on the general election ballot.

If the measure passes, state legislators will still have to hammer out a host of important details, including what kinds of facilities can host the bets, how many sports betting licenses will be awarded and how much they will be taxed. The Maryland General Assembly left those questions for the 2021 legislative session, which is scheduled to kick off Jan. 13.

The Cordish Cos. previously took the stance that only the state's casinos should be able to host sports wagers. On Wednesday, Weinberg said the company now feels the licenses "should be limited to the casinos and to the Maryland Jockey Club," which operates race tracks at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

He said sports betting, if approved, could bring in $40 million in direct taxes and is also expected to boost revenues throughout the rest of the casino, as visitors come to watch and wager on a game and stay for table games and slots.

"It really is a substantial new audience," he said.

Weinberg said the casino's research has found a crowd that tends to be in the 35-to-50-year-old age range and "skews a bit more male."

The Cordish Cos. already operates Sports & Social concepts at several of its other properties, including Live at the Battery, near the Atlanta Braves' Truist Park, Ballpark Village in St. Louis and Texas Live, between the Texas Rangers' Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Though Maryland's Live Casino & Hotel, located next to the busy Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, is about 13 miles south of M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Faranca said the concept adds to the casino's draws, which also include an attached 310-room hotel and the Hall at Live, a 75,000-square-foot performance and conference venue.

"Sports betting really helps us mature as a true regional destination," he said.

In Hanover, Sports & Social will offer 212 seats, casino games like blackjack and roulette and a 47-foot-wide main TV screen. Visitors will be able to watch at least 10 games at one time, Weinberg said.

If sports betting moves forward, the lounge will also feature screens showing odds for different games, self-service wagering kiosks and live teller stands.

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