Live! Casino’s Rob Norton Looks Back on 10 Years of Growth in Maryland

Live! Casino’s Rob Norton Looks Back on 10 Years of Growth in Maryland
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by BetMaryland.com Staff

Looking back over 10 years of expansion and growth of the casino he has managed, Rob Norton, part of the leadership team at Cordish Cos., is excited about celebrating the decade that Live! Casino and Hotel has been a leader in the state’s gaming industry. He said he looks forward to what the future holds in the rapidly evolving entertainment sector.

Norton, president of Cordish Global Gaming and Live! Casino, has for the 10-year history of the casino in Hanover, Maryland, largely been the day-to-day overseer of gaming, but his duties have expanded as the company’s sweep both locally and around the country has grown. There are now Live! casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but its development and operations portfolio extends to Florida, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere.

However, at the moment, the Cordish team, including CEO David Cordish, managing partner Joe Weinberg, and the approximately 3,000 employees at the Maryland casino are focusing on the building’s 10-year anniversary with a month-long celebration.

When the casino opened June 6, 2012, it had about 3,100 slot machines and electronic games, but no live table games and just a handful of restaurants. 

Today, Live! has 10 restaurants and bars, an expansive Las Vegas-style casino floor, a huge poker room, a 4,000-seat event center, a four-diamond hotel and most recently, the top-grossing sportsbook for Maryland sports betting.

‘Continuous’ Transition Over 10 Years

“Our transition over the last 10 years has been continuous and always improving,” said Norton, who talked with BetMaryland.com about the casino’s FanDuel Sportsbook in February.

“We develop especially strong brands in very strong markets,” Norton added. “This location, we knew, was going to be a winner from the moment it was conceived. … Once we got to full table games and got to see the structure of the resort, it definitely did not surprise us that we would be one of the top grossing casinos in the country based on the population around us, the amenities, and how we operate.”

In May, the casino had its best month ever, Norton noted, with revenue of more than $62.7 million.

Along the way, the casino has been a major financial contributor to the state of Maryland, delivering more than $2.6 billion in tax revenue over the last 10 years, most of it to the Education Trust Fund.

What Does the Future Hold?

Looking ahead, Norton says the gaming industry, while usually slow to make technological transitions that other industries adapt more quickly, is sure to ease into some changes.

Specifically, Norton predicts that cashless technology, already prevalent in the retail world, will begin to make its way more and more onto casino floors. Once that happens, he says, gaming and its customers will see secondary developments.

Norton is cautious about Maryland online casinos, though, both in terms of economic impact and what consumers will continue to want.

“Bricks-and-mortars create jobs, they create economic stimulus, they create all kinds of positives for the community and very few negatives,” he said. 

Meanwhile, casinos have to continue to reinvest and reinvent themselves, he said, and readjust entertainment models “as folks are looking for that night-out and escape the digital world.” 

What About Online Sports Betting?

In terms of sports wagering and the much-anticipated launch of mobile/internet gambling in Maryland, Norton said Live! is confident with its partnership with industry-leader FanDuel.

“We’re ready for online to come. We’re going to have the odds and the games and the choices and the parlays that make us distinctive and different. And we look forward to that,” Norton said.

As far as timing, though. Norton would prefer to stay clear of the question (“I applaud the state for doing whatever they need to do to take their time and evaluate the process”) but he’s also a realist. “I can’t see how we get it done this year based upon where we are right now,” he conceded.

A History of Community Involvement

More immediately, Norton is looking forward to the casino’s 10-year anniversary and in doing so, reflected on Live!’s history of community involvement.

Before the building was built, David Cordish personally went to neighbors to convince them his business would be an enhancement, not a detriment, to the area.

“There were a number of people or organizations that came out pretty strongly against us in not wanting to have a casino in their backyard,” Norton said. “We met with each one of those groups, and shared with them our thoughts and our plans, and told them when we look back at this three, four years after opening that we expect them to be standing on the other side of the aisle telling people why we are such great partners with the local communities.”

The casino’s community involvement has included embracing the local community college and providing opportunity for minority-owned businesses. Beneficiaries of Live!’s assistance includes the Anne Arundel Food Bank, Toys for Tots, the Y of Central Maryland, the USO, and Sarah’s House, which provides family shelter and support, along with many other organizations.

“We want it to be good for us and good for our customers and our employees,” Norton said. “But if it’s just a win for one side, that’s really not what we’re after. We’re looking for the win-win.”

Special Events for the Anniversary

For the month of June, Live!’s customers will have an opportunity to do some winning.

There is an ongoing $10,000 daily giveaway and other specials including money machine drawings and tier credit sweepstakes. Comedian Dave Chapelle will have performances on June 18-19 at the event center, The HALL. 

In keeping with the casino’s community commitment, June 17 will be a day of casino service with the United Way of Central Maryland.

On June 13, more details about the 10-year celebration will be announced.

“We’re turning 10,” Norton said, “and want to share it with everyone.”

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A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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