Sports games – and eventually, sports betting – will be front and center at Live Casino’s new venue
For an indication of the hopes that Live Casino & Hotel operator The Cordish Cos. is pinning on the impending arrival of sports betting in Maryland, look no further than the placement of the new, sports-themed venue inside its Hanover casino.
Sports & Social, a lounge and restaurant offering massive TV screens, social games and, eventually, sports wagering kiosks, sits right in the heart of the gaming floor, the latest showpiece for the nine-year-old Live.
The $15 million venue, which opens to the public Thursday, is "in the absolute center of the casino," said Reed Cordish, a principal for Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., the developer of Live-branded concepts locally and across the country. "It needed to be this jewel, this incredible energy zone."
The sports bar makes its debut as the state is gearing up to accept applications from operators interested in hosting sports wagers. Maryland legislators passed a law this General Assembly session allowing casinos, race tracks, professional sports stadiums and bingo facilities, among other venues, to offer sports betting on site. The state will also offer separate licenses for mobile and online betting.
Approval is still several months away at the earliest, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director Gordon Medenica told the BBJ this month. Cordish said Tuesday he's hoping an initial stage of licensing will be complete by late summer or early fall.
"We would love our guests to be able to experience the whole football season" with sports betting as an option, he said. "When the state goes live, we will go live."
In the meantime, Sports & Social aims to become a hub for sports fans looking to catch a game, with 100 linear feet of LED screens. The lounge's main 47-foot-wide screen, positioned above the bar, has the capacity to display more than a dozen games at once.
"Whatever's on, we'll have on," including pay-per-view features, said Rob Norton, the president of the Cordish Gaming Group.
The Sports & Social concept is already in place in several Cordish markets without gaming, including The Battery, next to Truist Park in Atlanta; Ballpark Village, near Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri; and Texas Live in the Arlington Entertainment District, adjacent to the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium, as well as Globe Life Park and Globe Life Field. The sports bar is also part of the new Live Casino Pittsburgh and the Live Casino & Hotel Philadelphia.
The developer also recently announced plans for new Sports & Social venues in Chicago, Nashville, Miami and, closer to home, at the Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda. That location is slated to open shortly after Labor Day, Cordish said.
In Hanover, the 13,775-square-foot venue integrates casino games into the Sports & Social experience, with booths featuring popular games like roulette, craps, blackjack and baccarat. There are social games, too, including foosball and air hockey tables, and — in a nod to Baltimore — two small duckpin bowling alleys.
The sports lounge, which seats at least 200 people and will be able to accommodate more as Covid-19 capacity limits ease, has a full menu of meal offerings like short rib nachos, grilled tuna salad and pork belly burgers. Its cocktail list includes signature drinks like the S&S Bloody Mary, with bleu cheese-stuffed olives, and the FanDuel Fever, a mix of Hendricks gin, Fever Tree tonic water and lemon juice.
The Cordish Cos. announced its partnership with FanDuel in 2019, and Sports & Social's sportsbooks are branded with the bookmaker's logo. The sports betting infrastructure is already in place at the bar, with self-service wagering kiosks and a two-sided retail window facing into the bar and out onto the gaming floor. Norton said the casino plans to apply for a mobile betting license as well, so that patrons can place bets from their phones.
Mobile wagering has accounted for a hearty percentage of sports betting in other markets, and both state and Cordish Cos. officials say they expect the balance will be similar in Maryland. But they hope experiences like the one at Sports & Social will lure in a new audience beyond regular casino-goers, boosting tax revenues. Cordish said the casino is already planning special events and promotions to get those customers through the door.
"The real opportunity for us and for the state, from a financial standpoint, is for us to drive a new audience of customers into Live Casino," he said. "While they're there, many of our guests will also enjoy the traditional gaming activities, and that's where you see a tremendous amount of tax generation for the state."
With a location halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the sports bar won't be picking sides in any local rivalries between the Orioles and Nationals or the Ravens and the Washington Football Team. Live sees a pretty even split among fans from both regions, and game days between the Ravens and the Washington team bring an added energy to the casino, said Norton.
"We love them all," he said.
This story has been updated to correct the total cost of the Sports & Social project, which is $15 million. An earlier press release said the project cost $12 million.
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