As you may have heard, Horseshoe Casino revenues have been declining while revenues at Maryland’s other 5 casinos continue to grow. This is not what former Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and current Mayor Catherine Pugh had hoped and anticipated.
So why is the Horseshoe under-performing? Why hasn’t it been the development magnet city residents were promised? No doubt competition from Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County and even the MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County is a factor. But one of the other reasons is its location. It’s in Baltimore City which is a problem in general given the city’s reputation and demographics. True, it’s downtown near the stadiums, but the immediate neighborhood is “under-developed,” to put it mildly, and not at all inviting to clientele, a substantial portion of which will need to be coming from Baltimore County and other suburbs for the casino to be a bona fide success.
To resolve their “ambiance problem,” owners of the Horseshoe have been spending millions of dollars buying up property near the casino. What for? Well, for one thing, they’ve been busy making arrangements to build a Topgolf franchise on the property where BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Car Shelter) and stadium LOT J are located, more or less adjacent to the Horseshoe.
Topgolf, if you didn’t know, is a glitzy, high-end, expensive combination driving range and bar. (What elected officials thought this was just what the city needs? It’s a good question you should be asking yourself when they run for re-election.) The hope is that Topgolf will do for the neighborhood what the casino should have done, but hasn’t, and be the anchor that stimulates the birth of a viable “entertainment zone.”
Problem… Who will be Topgolf’s customers? Some of the city’s most successful residents no doubt, but the secret to success on the BARCS/Lot J properties will be the ability of Topgolf to draw from the suburbs. Why? Because the two-thirds of the city’s population that is struggling financially does have the money to go to Topgolf – or even play golf for that matter, which is probably, so we’re guessing, why there aren’t that may golf courses in west Baltimore.
Note to the owners of the Horseshoe and current Mayor and City Council… Maybe, instead of focusing on clearing the way for Topgolf, you should focus your attention on more productive initiatives to improve the city and its economy. For example, you might start by finding jobs, health services and residences for the homeless living under the Russell St. ramp that all those suburban customers pass on the way to gamble and perfect their long ball game. Don’t just keep calling the Police to shoo the homeless away. Do the right thing. Do something to actually solve the homeless problem.
If you’re wondering, here are pictures taken of just one section of the Russell St. ramp on a cold, but sunny Thursday, January 10, 2019. Understandably, the numbers of homeless living under the ramp are much larger at night and in warmer weather.
How close, exactly, is the Horseshoe Casino and the Topgolf that will be built right behind it? Standing in the street on the south side of the ramp, all you have to do is look up…
So, if you haven’t already been to the Horseshoe Casino or new Topgolf if and when it opens, how do you feel about it now? Maybe there are places where you and your friends, spouse or date would rather go? Just saying.