Ocean Downs opened for business Tuesday afternoon with 750 slot machines available.
Gov. Martin O'Malley led the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The line of gamblers and the curious assembled long before, 11 News reporter David Collins said. Even those with long life experiences enjoyed it.
"This is magnificent. I've been to Vegas and I've been around. This is just as good as anything I've seen anywhere else," said former Gov. Marvin Mandel.
The casino is currently operating 750 of its 800 slot machines, including video BlackJack games and a roulette wheel.
The $45 million facility employs 236 people. The building isn't flashy, and owner William Rickman said it's not meant to be.
"We're never going to set the world on fire here. We have 800 machines. We will probably stay at that for quite some time. It is just going to be an addition to the community," he said.
The casino is Maryland's second slots parlor. A 2008 voter referendum allows for five parlors to be built, but the Ocean Downs location, which is about five miles outside of Ocean City, has more restrictions than any other location in the state.The restrictions were necessary to get the bill passed through the General Assembly, but Senate President Mike Miller took strong exception to them and vowed change.
"This is nonsense personified. This is a great facility. This man had to do it by overcoming every restriction possible," Miller said. "You go to a casino and they offer a group of games. He can't do that here. They offer free food. He can't offer that here. They have a hotel you can stay in. He can't do that. They have a golf course. He can't have that here. They have amusements. He can't have any."
Miller continued, "The only thing he can have is one piano. What kind of nonsense is that?"
The restrictions were necessary to appease residents in and around Ocean City. Many businesses joined in on residents' concerns about slots tarnishing the resorts family image, but the frosty reception shows signs of thawing.
"There are lots of good opportunities out there. I believe hotels are discussing partnerships," said Tom Perlozzo of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce.
"We are talking with restaurants and golf courses," said Ocean Downs General Manger Joseph Cavilla.
The governor said the casino is a good thing.
"I think the legislation was very narrowly drawn and narrowly crafted, and I do not believe it will be a hurt to Ocean City. In fact, on the contrary, I think it will be an added attraction," O'Malley said.
Few places are open this time of year in Ocean City, and the casino appears to be a welcome adult attraction, Collins reported.
Officials said 5.5 percent of slots proceeds will be set aside for local impact grants, and 60 percent of that will go to Worcester County. Ocean City will get 20 percent of the revenues, and 10 percent will go to the town of Berlin. Another 10 percent will go to the community of Ocean Pines.
After a test run before the grand opening, the casino donated $10,000 in slots revenues to American Legion Post 166 in recognition of its charitable work. The casino management matched the proceeds.