Sizzle, Excitement and Protest Mark Horseshoe Opening

Attendees to the VIP party celebrating the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.  (photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)
Attendees to the VIP party celebrating the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. (photo by P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR)

Tuesday’s grand opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore had it all: sizzle, excited patrons and a protest.

A who’s who of politicians and their guests attended a VIP party before the casino opened to the general public at 9 p.m. Guy Fieri from Food Network was there to Launch Guy Fieri’s Baltimore Kitchen and Bar. Former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann also attended. He serves on the Board of Directors of casino owners, Caesar’s Entertainment.

“I think this is going to be a great addition to the Baltimore Area. I think it’s gonna be a great attraction,” Swann said. He added the casino will give Baltimoreans the kind of entertainment they’re looking for.

While the party was going on in the casino’s entertainment plaza, those who were not VIPs or top members of Caesar’s Total Rewards program lined up in a parking lot two blocks away. Those in line were given water to stay cool and information about the casino’s customer incentive program.

First in line was Clarice Nelson, who had been there since 9 a.m. The city resident was expecting people to camp out, but no one did. Nelson wanted to win a million dollars, but kept her expectations low for opening night.

“Just win a little bit of money and have some fun and look at this casino and check out the machines,” she said.

Noah Nutter, who drove in from Annapolis, said not only is he looking to win some money, he wanted to see if the casino had karaoke.

“I’m an entertainer, I do Superstitious by Stevie Wonder and I’m very good at what I do,” he said.

After remarks Governor Martin O’Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor pulled a giant slot machine handle to open the casino.

While VIPs were inside, about a dozen cab drivers for companies other than Yellow Cab were angry that Yellow has an exclusive contract to pick up guests. They are permitted to drop people off.

“Why are we shut out? So many of our drivers cannot earn a living no more,” said Folarin Folawiyo who adds he and his fellow drivers want a equal chance to serve casino customers. He accused Yellow of operating a monopoly. “You work all day; all around the city. No business; so people sleep in their car.”

The $442 million complex has 2,500 slot machines, more than 100 table games, several dining options and Baltimore’s only 24-hour bar and lounge.

City officials said the majority of the more than 24-hundred casino employees are Baltimore residents.

The next party will be at least two years from now when MGM opens its casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

Story originally posted at news.wypr.org on August 27, 2014.

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