Md.'s first slots casino opens to poor reviews

PERRYVILLE, Md. - Maryland's first casino opened three days early Monday morning, and even with the rainy day, thousands of people came to spend money at the highly anticipated destination.

Just don't expect them all to return.

"I'm not impressed whatsoever," said Marie Jones, who came from Baltimore. Jones declined to give her age.

By sheer numbers, the Hollywood Casino Perryville's first day was a success: Hundreds of cars crowded the parking lot, boasting license plates from mostly Maryland with the occasional Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and D.C. plate. Inside the casino, a mostly retirement-aged crowd was nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in some corners, and three out of every four seats were occupied.

Floating above, the smooth tones of Frank Sinatra and his contemporaries provided the background to the bings of the slot machines.

But not everyone was impressed. Gretchen James, 47, referenced the older crowd and noted the casino seemed to be fulfilling the prophecy that it would attract people who were on a limited budget.

"I worry about people spending their last dime," she said.

Other people thought the casino was too small; others didn't like the choice of machines.

Jones said she spent $75 in an hour. She and a friend said they wouldn't come back and preferred the variety of slot machines at Delaware Park Racetrack and Slots just 30 minutes north.

"It's not losing the money. ... You spend what you can afford to lose," Jones said. "But at least at Delaware Park it'll take me the whole day for $75. Here it was too fast."

Lloyd Vennie, 66, who also came from Baltimore, said he was disappointed in the lack of 50-cent machines.

The casino holds 1,500 machines, including electronic casino games such as video poker. Nearly more than half the floor space holds penny, two-cent and nickel slots. The rest is divided among 25-cent slots, $1 and $5 slots and electronic casino games.

Vennie, who spent $400 in a few hours, said he might give Perryville one more chance.

"There's a possibility I would come back in a few months and check it out again on my way to Delaware Park," he said.

Casino officials said managers will have the option of reassessing the machines and can make adjustments for minimum and maximum wagers.

The large crowds -- who almost literally gathered at a moment's notice after the casino announced this weekend it would open early -- also helped confidence.

"I'm excited to see all this energy and the customers," said Marc DeLeo, the casino's director of marketing. "Some of these people probably didn't even know [we were opening] until they woke up this morning, and yet they're here."

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