The Effect of Question 7 and Table Games on Baltimore

| November 7, 2012 | 6 Comments

It was the most financed campaign in Maryland election history as opponents and proponents spent $35.7 million on Question 7, which would allow a Prince George’s County Casino and the addition of table games at all Maryland casinos.  Whether you supported the bill or not, it has passed and that means Baltimore’s casino on Russell Street south of the stadiums will include table games when it opens in 2014.  Caesars Entertainment is about to break ground on a new casino in South Baltimore, so let’s take a look at the impact the passing of Question 7 will have on the city and the surrounding area.

The first major change will be the actual branding of the casino.  Long proposed as Harrah’s Baltimore, Caesars President John Payne has promised to brand the casino under the Horseshoe brand – their higher-end brand – if Question 7 passed.  They have also promised investing $25 million more  into the casino (bringing the total to $400 million) and building a larger special events space which could include boxing and MMA and more restaurants. They also promised bringing the World Series of Poker to Baltimore and hiring an additional 500 people.

Under the new laws in Question 7, Horseshoe Baltimore, as well as every other casino in Maryland, will be open 24 hours a day.  Maryland casinos are currently only allowed to stay upon till 2am on weeknights and 4am on weekends.  With the large crowd that nearby Federal Hill already attracts, this could be a popular late night destination.

A term that is thrown out  a lot when it comes to casinos is the term “slots barn,” which refers to a low budget, low frills casino thrown up quickly to make money off slots.  Whether the Baltimore facility would have fit that description was certainly up for discussion, but there is no doubt at this point that it will be a higher-end facility.  When Question 7 passed there was an immediate buzz on Twitter and Facebook showing the excitement of many people who said they’ll get to play poker and blackjack in Maryland.

Slots are often looked at as the choice of the older crowd, but there is no denying that table games are much more popular with the younger and more affluent crowd, which is a huge population in the area with SoBo, Federal Hill, Ridgely’s Delight, Riverside, Otterbein, Barre Circle and Pigtown all within walking distance to the facility and the downtown hotels and convention center just two light rail stops away.  “Table games tend to bring a more affluent customer base to the development, which means you get all the spinoff businesses like the Ruth Chris Steakhouses and the nice stores. It will make the entire project a better project for the neighborhood and the area,” District 46 Senator Bill Ferguson told SouthBMore.com.

The more successful Horseshoe Baltimore is, the more money that will be flowing into the neighborhoods surrounding the casino as $.05 of every dollar lost in a slot machine will go towards local impact funds which is projected at $18 million per year (grain of salt).  The allocation of the local impact funds will be decided by a committee which includes Wesport, Pigtown, SBNA, Sharp Leadenhall, Federal Hill and Federal Hill West and Riverside and Federal Hill South will have an advisory role.  The committee will also feature two legislators who are likely to be Senator Bill Ferguson and one of the three delegates from the area, plus the council person for the area where the casino is located, Ed Reisinger.

“For the first few years the local impact funds will be focused on capital and infrastructure projects that are dealing with the spill-off effects of this new development which include increased traffic and foot traffic, as well making sure the area is secure and safe,” said Ferguson.  “Initially I think we’ll see the bulk of money going towards infrastructure. Outside of that, there is just so much possibility for what we can do.  We have so many communities that are really looking to see better options for kids which includes youth centers, youth programming, sport leagues and extracurriculars.  This is a chance to invest in programs that will help to keep families living and thriving in the city.”

$.05 of every dollar lost on table games will also be spent on Baltimore City School construction and recreation and parks.  It is projected that Baltimore City Public Schools need $2.5 billion in improvements. The money could also go to rec centers which are attached to many schools.

Another interesting thing to watch will be the development of the area Horseshoe sits on, which was once branded Gateway South.  When I take people by the site of the casino, they often say, “They are putting it here, there is nothing down here.”  This presents the opportunity to revitalize a rundown section of town right near the stadiums which are highly visible as you enter Baltimore on 295. It also allows the opportunity to keep the noise and entertainment element of this facility in an area separated from any current housing.

The casino will be constructed on the large vacant lot between Russell and Warner and all of the vacant buildings on Warner St. will be used for the parking garage and outdoor entertainment space.   This area located between Russell St., M&T Bank Stadium and the Gwynns Falls Trail is currently also home to a Holiday Inn Express, the Greyhound station, (which is about to undergo new $4.1 million dollar renovation), Grainger and Public Storage.

That leaves several vacant or underutilized building that could be hot for redevelopment including 1400 Warner St. which is the current home to the Bud Light Gameday Warehouse, a bar in a three-story building only open during Ravens home games and several other events, and the attached building which was the former home of the Second Chance antiques building.  There are also two buildings at the southeast and southwest corners of Warner St. and Ostend St.  All of these properties have been mentioned as potential urban mixed use development sites on the Ceasars website.  I’m hearing from several developers that the brick building on the southwestern corner is a hot commodity and we’ll see about the other.

There are several other warehouses in the area as you go down Ostend St. in either direction and one in particular is a long vacant three-story building stuck in between 395, Ostend St. and Howard St.  Expect to see a rush to buy up many of these building as investors look to put their stamp on this new entertainment district – there has already been reports of Hammerjacks looking to make at comeback in this area.  We will see if this projected momentum trickles into any of the warehouses in Federal Hill West/Sharp Leadenhall or the Carrol Camden Industrial Park across Russell Street.

Though the casino was coming regardless, there should really be an increase in foot traffic, local impact funds for the area and area development with the passing of Question 7.  “It really helps to make Baltimore a destination location. It gives another tool in the toolbox that we can help to market Baltimore as a place that is great to visit, great to stay and even better to live.  There is an opportunity to bring in bigger conventions, which means more hotel tax, and more people who are coming in and seeing the great city that we have here. It helps to change the perception of Baltimore,” said Ferguson.

Complete Casino Money Breakdown

A look at the area which runs from Russell St. to the West, the Gwynn Falls Trail to the East and South and Ostend St. to the North:


View Larger Map

Sit Down with Senator Ferguson about the Casino and Queston 7

 

 

 

About the Author:

Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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  • bmoreguy

    There is nothing more that can be done but wait and see. The existing casinos in MD are only so/so and there is only so much gambling money afluential people have to spend in the first place. My guess is this will end up being Power Plant Live with a casino. Has there been any grumbling around the neighborhood that you’ve heard about the closure of Warner between Bayard and Worchester? This will certainly have an impact on the neighborhood as cars that rely on that route to get to and from 95 and 295 to get to work will have to utilize other streets. Any local impact funds this project actually generates will likely have to be spent on improving the streets that will face additional traffic to accommodate the casino.

  • human1

    You unfortunately failed to list any of the negative effects of the casino on the area, such as crime, even more people coming into the already overcrowded Federal Hill bar scene, potential critical road closures. While there are some positives of the passage of question 7, there are certainly many things we as a community need to be worried about. It would be a shame is (south) Baltimore became anything like Atlantic City.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Lynch/1259877595 Kevin Lynch

      Question 7 only adds table games, not the casino itself, so I’m not sure adding table games will decrease from the safety. I think with a more active and financed casino, safety will also be higher. We’ll see, Caesars has a lot at stake, and should bend over backwards to keep their reputation in Baltimore great.

      • human1

        Unfortunately based on years of hearing politicans saying stuff like that and then seeing the exact opposite in terms of action, I don’t have a lot of faith in words spoken by them. These casino companies care about one thing, profit. They will do the very minimum for the surrounding area that they have to by law. Under Armor is a good corporate neighbor, I don’t see Caesars following in their footsteps. Look at how they’ve constructed their contract with the city, you can see there how much they care about the community. If your statement about keeping a great reputation is in the eyes of the community, I think they’ve already lost that. If its in the eyes of their shareholders and potential clients, than yes they care a whole lot. So much that it might be at other people’s expense.

        I hope I’m completely wrong about this, because this casino will reshape South Baltimore for the next several decades. There’s no turning back now.

      • bmoreguy

        Thats the only reason I supported it. It was going to be built anyway so it might as well be the best project it can be. I only hope they are unsuccessful in closing Warner between Bayard and Worchester UNLESS they simply disable the light right there move it to Worchester at Russell by the self storage place so residents can still have easy access to the highways without having to overburden Hamburg or Hanover Streets.

    • Hal Greenberg

      I see the Baltimore casino as being similar to the Harrah’s in New Orleans. People do not go to New Orleans simply to gamble as there are plenty of other things to see and do around town. The casino caters to a certain segment of tourists and convention attendees. There will be the occasional drunks that wander from Federal Hill after the bars close, but that is not the clientele that an upscale casino will cater to. Not to mention, many of those patrons are younger and less likely to have money to spend at the tables at 3am. A full-scale casino is a much better addition to the area than a half-assed slots parlor. As Kevin points out, a casino was going to built there anyway.