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Inside Gaming: Maryland Live! Rebrands, Steps Up Competition With MGM

Live! Casino & Hotel in Maryland (artist's rendering)
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  • Maryland Live! rebrands as Live! Hotel & Casino, makes moves to compete with MGM National Harbor.

  • Australia's federal parliament hears allegations against Crown Casino; MGM purchases WNBA franchise.

This week's installment of Inside Gaming provides an update on the construction of the hotel adjoining the Maryland Live! casino (and its rebranding), tells of explosive allegations of improprieties by a Melbourne casino, and shares news of another professional sports franchise coming to Las Vegas.

Live! Casino & Hotel in Maryland Responds to Competition

Those present at the World Poker Tour's recent stop at the Maryland Live! Casino no doubt noticed the significant construction happening nearby as work continues on a new adjoining 310-room hotel.

While construction on the hotel isn't due to complete until early next year, on Tuesday a "topping-off" ceremony commemorated the final steel beam being placed, with the occasion marked as well by a rebranding of the facility as Live! Casino & Hotel.

As The Washington Post reports, the addition of the 17-story hotel plus an event center is part of an effort to compete with the new MGM National Harbor that opened December 2016.

After enjoying five-plus years as the state's leading casino, "monthly revenue [for Maryland Live!]... has dropped an average of 17.7 percent since the MGM National Harbor opened" the doors to its casino, 24-story hotel, and concert hall.

At present construction plans for the Live! Casino & Hotel also include the building of a 1,500-seat convention center, although it could be as large as 4,000 seats if a tax break from the state is approved. (An artist rendering of the completed project appears above.) Meanwhile the new hotel will give Live! customers a total of 560 hotel rooms including the 250-room hotel located about a mile from the casino.

Maryland Live! opened in 2012, and "remains the largest of the state's six casinos, with nearly 4,000 slot machines and 190 gambling tables." That said, MGM National Harbor became "the biggest revenue generator in January, its first full month of operations."

Speaking to the Post, Rob Norton, president of Cordish Global Gaming Group and Live Casinos, described the expansion as a direct response to the competition brought from MGM National Harbor.

"We have to work harder at what we do," said Norton. "When we open the hotel and event center, I expect that we will be able to compete differently and maybe a little bit more effectively."

"This is part of how you fight back," added chairman David Cordish, alluding both to the new construction and plans to reward current members of the casino's rewards program with free accommodations.

"We are not going anywhere," said Cordish. "We will keep adding [amenities], and may the best man win."

Allegations of Crown Casino Improprieties Brought to Australian Parliament

This week Australia's federal parliament heard allegations of improprieties by Melbourne's Crown Casino presented by whistleblower staff, the seriousness of which "could raise questions of Crown's fitness to hold a casino license" while also increasing scrutiny upon Austrialia's entire casino industry, reports The Guardian.

Video evidence produced by three Crown staff (including a technicial and a gaming attendant) "was collected by independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick Xenophon as part of their 'PokieLeaks' campaign to expose illicit practices in the pokies industry."

The allegations include deliberate tampering of poker machines (i.e., video slots) to enable illegal continuous play, the avoidance of money laundering rules, and the allowance of cannabis to be smoked in gaming rooms. Crown Resorts "rejected the allegations... concerning the improper manipulation of poker machines and other illegal or improper conduct" at the Crown Casino.

Wilkie described what was outlined in the video as representing "very serious allegations... levelled at the poker machine industry," adding that while they focused on Crown, "they could also suggest a broader pattern of behavior in the poker machine industry, which would obviously have grave implications for people right around Australia."

Wilkie added that if "members and senators, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and the media" were to examine the video testimony, he believed all would "agree that the claims warrant an immediate and strong response."

Wilkie tabled the allegations for future consideration by parliament. Meanwhile Xenophon is "now pushing for a Senate inquiry into the regulation of Australia's casino industry" while others call for Crown to stop operating its poker machines until an audit is conducted.

More Sports in Las Vegas as MGM Buys WNBA Franchise

There has been a lot of buzz in Las Vegas regarding the hot start by the National Hockey League's newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, with the team sporting an impressive 5-1 record to start its first season. The Knights arrive in Sin City ahead of the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League who are set to relocate and become the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020.

By the time the Raiders make their move, yet another professional sports franchise will already be playing in Las Vegas. That's because on Tuesday MGM Resorts International announced it had received league approval to purchase the San Antonio Stars of the Women's National Basketball Association.

As ESPN reports, the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the relocation, with the team scheduled to begin playing in Las Vegas starting in 2018. Former NBA all-star and two-time WNBA Coach of the Year Bill Laimbeer will serve as the team's President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach.

MGM becomes the second company in the gaming industry to own one of the 12 WNBA franchises, joining the Mohegan Sun which currently owns the Connecticut Sun.

"This is the first pro sports team that MGM resorts owns and it's a great alignment frankly with the DNA of our company," said Lilian Tomovich, MGM's Chief Experience and Marketing Officer.

After starting in 1997 as the Utah Starzz as one of the eight original WNBA teams, the franchise moved to San Antonio in 2003 and made the WNBA finals in 2008. Last year, however, the team finished with the league's worst record, meaning they'll enjoy the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.

The Las Vegas Stars will play its home games at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The Vegas Golden Knights currently play at the T-Mobile Arena which MGM jointly owns, though the casino is not part of the NHL team's ownership.

Image: Live! Casino & Hotel.

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