"We're turning in machines in one place and allowing more facilities somewhere else? To me that makes no logic," said Del. Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee on gambling issues. The news from Perryville doesn't help the cause of gambling expansion, he said.
Even without approval of a sixth license, the up-and-running casinos have their share of problems, say some legislators and casino operators.
"When Baltimore opens, it's going to get even worse," Hayles said of the Harrah's casino approved last week for the city by the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission. Less than an hour's drive from Perryville, that casino is scheduled to open in 2014 and is authorized for 3,750 slot machines.
At the same commission meeting, the panel voted to let Evitts Resort LLC substantially revise its plans for a $62 million casino and hotel complex at Rocky Gap. Evitts couldn't get adequate financing for its original proposal.
Instead of installing 850 machines in an addition to the existing resort, Evitts now intends to put 500 machines in a renovated conference space. A deal to transfer Rocky Gap to Evitts from the Maryland Economic Development Corp. was completed last week, said Randall Shields, MEDCO's controller.
Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the committee that handles gambling-related bills in the House, expressed concern over the Perryville numbers but also noted that Penn National has other reasons to oppose gambling expansion in Maryland.
"We obviously need to be very aware of the possibility of oversaturating the market in terms of how many machines we allow," he said. But Penn National also owns a large casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that could feel the impact of competition from a casino in Prince George's County, he said.
In a filing withU.S. Securities and Exchange Commissionlast week, Penn National reported that it anticipates Maryland Live to adversely affect revenues at its Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.
Penn National, which owns and operates more than 20 horse-racing tracks or casinos nationwide, expects revenues to decline even more sharply at the Perryville and Charles Town locations if a sixth casino is approved at National Harbor in Prince George's County, the filing said. During the special session, the company plans to continue lobbying the General Assembly to approve the sixth license for Rosecroft Raceway, which is several miles east of National Harbor, according to the filing.
"There's a possibility that we're reaching a saturation point as far as Maryland gaming goes," said James Karmel, a gambling analyst and associate professor of history at Harford Community College.
But, he cautioned, more analysis needs to be done before legislators know for sure what is causing the revenue decline at Perryville.
"It's still an open question as to why Hollywood Casino Perryville's numbers are down so much," he said.
Perryville's declines could be a result of Maryland being surrounded by states that allow table games, he said. The legislature, he added, may not have enough time during the special session to ascertain the cause of Perryville's losses.
"Theoretically, the General Assembly might want to call for consideration of table games regardless of a casino at National Harbor," Karmel suggested.
Sen.Edward J. Kasemeyer, chairman of the Senate committee that will consider the gambling expansion bill, said he doubted that the developments in Perryville and Rocky Gap would influence action on gambling expansion. Kasemeyer, a Democrat who represents Howard and Baltimore counties, said that in the case of Rocky Gap, the decision to scale back had been expected.
"I just don't see it factoring into ... this week," Kasemeyer said.
Slot machines in Maryland
Casinos currently operating and their number of slot machines:
Hollywood Casino Perryville, Cecil County: 1,500
Casino at Ocean Downs, Worcester County: 800
Maryland Live Casino, Anne Arundel County: 3,702 (4,750 by mid-September)
Casinos authorized to open:
Harrah's Baltimore, Baltimore City: 3,750
Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort, Allegany County: 500
Source: Maryland Lottery, the Cordish Cos.