A Deeper Look Into Cordish Cos. Online Casino Cannibalization Claims

Written By Adam Hensley on March 29, 2024
A picture of a man looking through a magnifying glass for a story about the validity of Cordish Cos cannibalization claims for Maryland online casinos.

Earlier this month, representatives from retail casinos voiced their opinions on legalizing iGaming in Maryland.

Representatives of four of the state’s casinos gave the green light, but two casinos asked the House Ways and Means Committee to think twice about Maryland online casinos.

One of those opponents was The Cordish Companies Executive Vice President and General Council Mark Stewart. The Cordish Companies owns the Live! Casino brand, which has properties in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

“We genuinely believe iGaming is a bad deal for Maryland, our employees and our communities,” Stewart told the committee earlier this month. “There’s little dispute that iGaming will cause substantial job loss.”

Stewart also said that tax revenue for the Maryland casino would drop by 10% if the state opts to legalize iGaming. He tabbed the potential legalization a “net negative” for the state.

“Many of those pushing the state to do iGaming are looking to make money off that. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s capitalism… If iGaming passes, we’re a gaming company – we’ll do well financially. But despite our potential financial gain, we are asking you not to do iGaming, and that should speak volumes.”

According to those for iGaming, however, the concept of cannibalism ravishing the retail casino business is a bit overblown.

Sen. Ron Watson pushes back on Cordish Company’s claims on cannibalism

Maryland Sen. Ron Watson is an online casino advocate. A couple of weeks ago, he said he hoped to pass a referendum “at minimum” so Maryland residents could vote on the subject.

He also doesn’t buy the idea of cannibalism.

A recent study by iDEA (iDevelopment and Economic Association) and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming found that online casinos are positive for their land-based counterparts. The findings show that iGaming resulted in six states having “an average quarterly revenue boost of +2.44%” for brick-and-mortar casinos.

Watson explained that there have not been any “proven” instances of cannibalism destroying a retail market.

He went a step further, too, pushing back on the Cordish Companies’ arguments.

“Unfortunately, Maryland Live! is saying there is cannibalization and job loss when the fact is that they offer online casino in Pennsylvania and are looking to hire more workers at Philadelphia Live!”

Hiring more workers at a retail casino in a state that offers iGaming seems to contradict statements on “substantial job loss” made by Stewart.

Live! Casino Philadelphia does have an online operation

The Live! Online Casino is operating in Pennsylvania alongside its Live! Philadelphia brick-and-mortar location.

“Take your favorite table games home with you,” Live! Philadelphia’s iGaming section of its website reads. “PlayLive! Online Casino now features live dealers from all your favorite games. Interact in real-time, place your bets, and win from the comfort of your own home.”

According to the website, the iGaming platform offers more than 100 games. Titles include favorites like Fortune Coin, Cleopatra, Red Hot Tamales as well as table games like blackjack, roulette and baccarat.

Philadelphia’s Live! Casino has a number of job openings

In addition to representatives of the casinos voicing their concerns about iGaming, casino employees made it clear they aren’t in favor of the subject either.

A poker dealer from Live! Casino in Maryland said just that, saying that he thought he’d be laid off. Another employee, one who works at MGM National Harbor as a bartender, said that online casinos would shrink foot traffic. In turn, her wages would be decimated since she relies heavily on customer tips.

Heading to Live! Philadelphia’s website, there is a sprawling list of job opportunities. Six line cook jobs are posted, three table game dealers, and two poker dealer openings. Open positions also include a bartender, busser, cocktail server, banquet house person and a sous chef, among others.

On the surface, wanting more help in those customer service positions seems to hint that business in the retail locations isn’t doing terribly at all.

Live! Philadelphia’s performance in the Pennsylvania casino and iGaming market

Across the board, Live! Philadelphia’s retail casinos numbers were up last year compared to 2022. And that’s with the casino’s online presence and the state boasting a growing iGaming market.

Live! Philadelphia’s retail slot machine revenue jumped up 11.75% from 2022. Retail table games for the casino saw an 8.01%  bump in revenue compared to the year prior. All the while, Live! Philadelphia’s iGaming venture jumped 20.74% in revenue from 2022.

Since 2020, slot machine revenue at all of Pennsylvania’s retail casinos has grown. Table game revenue dipped slightly in 2023 compared to 2022’s booming year, but it still tallied more than $971 million in revenue. In the six years leading up to Pennsylvania’s legalization of iGaming, the state never reached 2023’s number.

In 2023, Live! Philadelphia accounted for 11.16% of the state’s table game revenue and 5.55% of its slot machine revenue. The casino competed against 16 other operations.

Was there any sort of cannibalization in Pennsylvania with iGaming?

In short: no.

Pennsylvania legalized online casinos in 2017, but it officially launched in 2019. That year, table game revenue spiked by a $27.8 million increase for the retail casinos. In fact, casino table game revenue dropped by about $12 million from 2017 to 2018. 2019 was a welcome spike.

Retail slot machine revenue has stayed pretty consistent since iGaming’s legalization. It’s been between $2.2 and $2.3 million yearly from 2019-2022, outside of 2020’s all-around down year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2020, the state’s entire gambling revenue has increased each year.

The COVID-19 pandemic was certainly a speedbump in the state’s casino industry, but that was the case in almost every sector worldwide. These last few years are a great sign as the industry continues to climb. Considering Live! Philadelphia is enjoying that momentum as well, it’s not as though iGaming has wrecked its future.

Photo by PlayMaryland
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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