Maryland's first slots casino is officially cleared to open its doors to the public Monday — three days ahead of schedule — after state officials issued the Hollywood Casino of Perryville an operating license.
Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino signed the license Sunday evening allowing Penn National Gaming, the owner of the casino, to begin operations after a successful trial run of the facility on Saturday.
"Everything is a go and we will open at 8 a.m.," said Marc DeLeo, director of marketing at the casino. "We will open our doors as the first casino in the state. We passed all the tests, and they gave us the go ahead."
Hollywood Casino was originally scheduled to open Thursday, and still has plans to hold grand opening events that day. Monday's "soft" opening is slated for 8 a.m.
"We are in a hyper-competitive gaming environment," Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino said in a statement. "We want to expedite operations to begin creating more jobs and generating revenue for the state."
About 1,400 guests became the first to pull the levers on the slot machines at the 34,000-square-foot casino with a Hollywood movie theme during a closed-door charity event Saturday. The trial run was required by the state before a license would be issued.
During the test, the state assessed the facility's 1,500 slot machines, retail and food services, internal controls, employee training and technical systems.
Hollywood Casino's portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford and Cecil Counties and the Community Fire Company of Perryville.
The opening brings slots to Maryland after years of debate for the first time since it was banned in the 1960s. Neighboring states, in the meantime, have opened their own casinos that have attracted Marylanders.
Voters approved slots in a 2008 referendum that set the stage for casinos at five locations. So far, only the slots parlors in Perryville and at the Ocean Downs racetrack on the Eastern Shore are set to open. Plans for parlors in Baltimore and at Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County are caught up in court, and the state hasn't been able to identify a bidder to operate slots at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland.
Slots supporters are hoping the casino will lure back Marylanders who are gambling in other states and attract travelers along Interstate 95. It is expected to generate $100 million in annual and state revenue.
Cecil County officials, where the new casino is located, are particularly optimistic about the opportunities that could come. They are working to draw new restaurants, retailers and entertainment to take advantage of the crowds. The casino has already created 350 jobs, and 80 percent of the workers filling those positions came from Cecil and Harford counties.