Just before 10 p.m. the doors opened, and the fun began.
Thousands of gamblers walked cheerfully into Maryland Live! near Arundel Mills Wednesday night, marking the official opening of the state’s largest casino.
“I’m an addict for gambling,” said Elizabeth Mimms of Hyattsville, who was among the first to enter after waiting in line for most of the afternoon and evening.
Mimms said she frequently has gambled in other states, including Delaware, but was happy to have a new facility close by.
“We have one at home now, here in our home state,” she said. “I’m bringing home a check. They won’t be able to count the money in my hand, I’ll need a check.”
Carolyn Borges-Fote of Washington, DC, was the first member of the public to enter. After waiting in line for nine hours, she walked cheerfully into the casino and raised her arms, as if she had already won some money.
"When we heard the opening date, my mind was set," Borges-Forte said. "I like blackjack."
Bettie McKnight of Baltimore said she's been watching as the building at Arundel Mills progressed.
"I don't have to go anywhere now," said McNight of playing slots. "I'll just stay right here."
There were 3,200 slot and video gaming machines operating Wednesday night, and by about 10:30 p.m. most seats were occupied by gamblers. Meanwhile, some visitors stood in line to eat at the new Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace restaurant, while others gathered around the big screen televisions at the “R” bar.
Slot machines could be played in denominations of 1 cent to $100. The casino boasts more than 100 electronic table game stations, including blackjack, roulette, pai gow poker, three-card poker and baccarat.
By this fall, Maryland Live! will feature another 1,500 slot machines, plus a Rams Head Live concert stage and Prime Rib restaurant.
“We’re thrilled. We think the final product is obviously very exciting,” said Joe Weinberg, managing partner and president of gaming for The Cordish Cos., which developed Maryland Live!
The first night was not without its hiccups. Many gamblers said they had difficulty with the casino’s Live! Rewards Players Card. Moreover, traffic in the Arundel Mills area and on Route 100 was snarled for most of the night, and many visitors said it was hard to find a parking spot.
“I was disappointed outside when we got here,” said Cindy Staubs of Pasadena, who came to the casino with her husband, Michael. “Parking was terrible, traffic getting to the building was terrible and the way they handled the crowd outside was terrible.”
Staubs said she was impressed with the casino once inside, but felt the staff could have been friendlier.
“We’re investors, too. We’re bringing our money here, so if you want us to come back, you have to treat people a little nicer,” she said.
Wilson Turner of Woodlawn earned V.I.P. status, which was supposed to grant attendees early admission, by spinning a wheel inside the Arundel Mills mall. He attended the grand opening with his friend Beverly Philman, a Hanover native.
"We didn't feel very special," said Philman, since there was so much traffic around the mall and in line that they didn't get in until everyone else did. Still, the pair said they would return when it wasn't so crowded.
Alyssa Clark and Jack Spore from Dundalk said they liked the new casino. Both had been to Charlestown, WV, and Dover, DE, to play slots.
"We used to go far away and this is so much closer," Clark said. "It's nicer than most casinos."
Spore agreed, saying, "This is definitely a lot better than most places out there—it's brighter and better people."