Cordish Gaming President Talks Maryland Sports Betting, FanDuel Partnership

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Maryland’s first legal sportsbooks have not yet opened, but the FanDuel-branded Sports and Social bar at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland is ready.

The massive future sportsbook, prominently featured in the center of the Hanover, Maryland casino, is gearing up to take bets soon after it earns state regulatory approval.

Rob Norton, President of Cordish Global Gaming and Live! Casino talked with the Action Network about the sportsbook, mobile betting in Maryland and the future of casino gaming.

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Like every other state with legal online sports betting, mobile wagers are expected to make up the lion’s share of total revenue. That said, your casino has invested heavily in its retail sportsbook. What will bettors expect when they come here?

This is a sports viewing entertainment facility like nothing else in Maryland. It has over a hundred-foot-long screen where just the center screen alone is over 40 feet wide – plus great food. We’ve got bowling and social games here too, and you come and play oversized foosball where six of you can play on one table, plus duckpin bowling and other great fun games.

You can also sit anywhere within the sports and social space and have an incredible view. The way the sound works, you feel like you’re actually part of the stadium when the games are going on. We have screens all over the place in addition to the large main screen so you’re not going to miss any of the action.

Though sports betting has drawn plenty of headlines in the years since states could choose to legalize wagering, it’s still not a massive revenue generator in comparison to other casino games and entertainment options. What role do you see for sports betting?

We’ve always said as we were going through the conversation around sports betting that it isn’t a tremendous moneymaker. I think there’s a lot of folks that are getting into this space, thinking that, ‘yeah, it’s the next gold rush.’ But the reality is what it does is it creates a good foothold.

We will expect to see a lot of people come into the facility that maybe haven’t been here before. And they’ll come watch the games, they’ll have a beer, order a little bit of food, they’ll maybe make a bet on one of the games.

And because of the way we have set things up, we might catch them heading over to the slot machines or one of the blackjack tables, but the real opportunity for us and anybody else in the space is just to generate foot traffic.

FanDuel has been a U.S. market leader, typically among the highest if not the single highest-grossing sportsbook in virtually every market it operates. What does it mean to have FanDuel as a partner for Cordish properties in other states and now Maryland?

When we went into offering sports betting at our first casinos, we realized that having the No. 1 entertainment brand partnered with the No. 1 sports betting brand really was a can’t miss.

The FanDuel operation is top class. They lead nearly every market they’re in by far and they’re the No. 1 sportsbook operator in the country. Having them as part of our arsenal of things to choose from is a win-win for our customers, and I think FanDuel partnering with us is going to be great for them as well.

Maryland sports bettors and sportsbook operators are both eagerly awaiting the green light for the state’s first legal retail and online betting options. What have you heard about a launch timeline? Is there a chance your retail book can open before the online one?

Actually, the only things I’ve seen (on a launch timeline) are what I’m reading in articles myself. The conversations we’re having with the state regulators are very much that they’re working diligently to move fast. They’re telling us the things that we can do to prepare so that we can go once we get to the point where we can be prepared to move forward.

They’ve been very good partners helping us get through that process right now. The timing that keeps being said is sometime late fall, early winter. We don’t really know exactly what that means, but regardless if it’s an extra week or if it’s two months from now, we’ll be ready.

My impression with my interpretation (of the laws and regulations) is that the retail facilities will likely be first. Then the online will come because there is a more involved process with the digital side. That will likely follow sometime in the future. And I have not really heard expectations of what that time is.

How quickly do you think you can go from approval to first bet?

We’ll be able to get to live pretty quickly. We’ve hired most of our staff. We’ve got most of our technology ready to go. We’re just waiting for the final approvals, regulatory-wise, but the technology side and licensing process is ready to go. We are very confident that once the ‘switch is flipped’ we’ll be able to turn the lights on.

Maryland may not be quite yet ready politically for online casino gaming, but it is already live in neighboring Pennsylvania, where Cordish operates a site. Do you think iGaming is in the cards for Maryland in the future? How should lawmakers and regulators approach future digital gaming beyond mobile sports betting?

We’d like to see some cautious approaches to how to bring online gaming in that space, if it was to come. That said, we’re happy how we are today. We have an incredible facility. We create incredible entertainment. And the one part that is never really is not discussed enough is the jobs.

The casino industry in Maryland generates over 10,000 jobs. And these are high-paying jobs that don’t require high levels of education to attain. I want to make sure as we go forward that we take our time to do it right, and we make sure that we are set up to ensure that the jobs and the taxes generated from the casino are there.

Live! Casino has continued to develop and improve itself in a highly competitive Maryland market, including with major gaming centers in and around both Baltimore and Washington D.C. Continuing next with the FanDuel sportsbook launch, how does your casino continue to stand out among the competition?

No. 1, we start with our brand. The Live! brand is a national brand that’s known for creating an entertainment experience, and that’s what we do here. We also pride ourselves that we’re not a giant stock-exchange motivated company.

Many companies are just about the numbers while where we’re actually locally owned by a local Baltimore family and company that’s been around here for a hundred years. Maryland is our home; we do things differently as a result of that.

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