Drivers on Routes 100 and 295 were slowed to a crawl by Arundel Mills Wednesday around lunchtime, if they were lucky.
Maryland Live! casino, located in Hanover, rang in the announcement of more than 1,000 additional slot machines by offering $100 in free gambling money to subscribers on its email list.
More than 20,000 visitors came to the casino on Wednesday, according to Carmen Gonzales, Maryland Live! spokeswoman, who did not specify how many visitors the casino averaged daily. On opening night, the casino attracted more than 10,000 visitors.
Route 100 near 295 was "an absolute nightmare," posted one user to Twitter on Sept. 12.
The Baltimore-Washington Parkway "was a parking lot around noon," commented Patch user Brian C. that same day.
Barely a seat was empty within the casino, which now has 4,750 machines, and one patron playing a game Wednesday told Patch she came to cash in on the offer of free gambling money.
Janelle Robinson, 55, of Baltimore City, said she won $113 with $100 she received through email from Maryland Live!
"It's like another grand opening," said Robinson, who has been to the casino nearly ten times since it opened in early June, of the Sept. 12 event.
Much like the initial opening, Maryland Live!'s developers held a press conference with the Maryland Lottery on Wednesday. They announced the casino, with its new additions, now had the third most slot machines in the country.
For the initial grand opening in June, however, casino officials alerted traffic authorities in advance that an influx of people would be coming to Arundel Mills.
The State Highway Administration (SHA) was not given notice of the Sept. 12 happenings until traffic had already stacked up on arteries surrounding Arundel Mills, according to David Buck, spokesman for the SHA.
"SHA was only made aware of the event yesterday after the delays occurred along MD 295 and MD 100," said Buck in an email Thursday.
Increasing the backups on Route 100 east, roadwork was going on along the left shoulder between Arundel Mills Boulevard and MD 295.
The SHA alerted drivers after 3 p.m. Wednesday that there may be delays on the evening commute on those highways.
"We have reached out to the marketing folks at [Maryland Live!] to ask them to alert SHA in advance of any major promotions so we can assist with messages on our overhead signs," said Buck.
Buck said that there hadn't been other major events like the one Wednesday since June.
"Since the opening of the casino, this was clearly the largest single event as (apparently) thousands and thousands of people were given some type of free slots play between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.," said Buck. "Once the event-specific traffic delays subsided around 1:30, there were just normal afternoon rush hour delays along MD 100 near Arundel Mills Boulevard."
One commenter on Patch said 295 had "barely a soul on it" during rush hour Wednesday.
In the weeks ahead, traffic could pick up again, said Buck.
Through the end of October, Maryland Live! is offering special deals like hourly cruises and daily vehicle giveways that may attract more patrons, since people have to be on location to qualify for and claim winnings.
This weekend, the casino will also be offering $100,000 cash and free play giveaways, on Friday, Sept. 14; Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16.
Traffic won't be a problem, according to Gonzales of Maryland Live!
"We anticipate normal visitor levels," said Gonzales. She said that as far as traffic, the casino invested $10 million in road improvements, including a diverging diamond pattern exit approaching Arundel Mills from 295.
The highway officials are still keeping an eye on activities, according to Buck.
"There certainly could be heavier than normal traffic in the next several weeks but yesterday’s event was bound to generate far more traffic than a normal day as evidenced by the major delays during the middle of the day," said Buck.
"SHA’s 24 hour operations center is well aware of the promotions ... and will be keeping a close eye on traffic conditions on MD 295 and MD 100," said Buck.