Includes audio report
Maryland gambling officials issued their approval Thursday for the state to join the multi-state Cash4Life game starting in early 2016.
Cash4Life, which started in 2014 as a two-state game played in New Jersey and New York, has been popular with players and is steadily adding new member states. In addition to the original two states, the game currently is offered in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
"Our expectation is to join them probably in January or February," said Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
Lottery Post has confirmed that Tennessee will also be joining the game — probably in the November timeframe, according to Medenica.
In the game, players pick numbers in advance of twice-weekly drawings. The top prize is $1,000 a day for life.
Drawings for Cash4Life are conducted in New Jersey using a traditional lottery ball machine.
Medenica endorsed Maryland's participation in the game, which was then approved by the agency's parent commission on a voice vote at its monthly meeting.
You can hear Medenica speak about the addition of Cash4Life, as well as other upcoming Maryland Lottery changes, in the recorded interview below.
Cash4Life will join such games as Powerball, Mega Millions, Keno and a number of "instant ticket" games. The lottery recorded sales of $1.76 billion in the last fiscal year, a 2.2 percent increase over 2014.
The commission also unanimously approved the slots payout change sought by the state's five casinos.
Under the amended rule, the state will relax a requirement that each casino must pay out an average of 90 percent to 95 percent of the money bet at all of its machines over the course of a year.
Instead, the casinos will be subject to an average floor requirement of between 87 percent and 95 percent.
The change could shift millions of dollars from customers to the casinos. State and casino officials said competition among rival casinos would minimize the effect on the so-called "hold" — the amount of wagers casinos retain from slots play.
"This is an area that I think will give the casinos a little bit more flexibility in how they define or set up their slots floor," Charles LaBoy, the state's assistant director for gaming, told the commissioners. "When it's all said and done I don't think this regulation change will have much of an impact on the actual floor average."
Most states don't set guidelines for casinos' average annual slots payouts. Rather, they mandate ranges for the payouts of individual machines.
Maryland does that, too. State law requires an individual machine to pay out at no less than an 87 percent average, although many pay out more.
Pennsylvania and Ohio mandate at least 85 percent payouts per machine, New Jersey requires a minimum 83 percent and West Virginia 80 percent, according to figures compiled by Maryland regulators from the American Casino Guide. Delaware's requirement is the same as Maryland's.
Hollywood Casino Perryville, which was the state's first casino when it opened five years ago, announced Thursday it will stage a "year-long anniversary celebration" beginning with a Las Vegas-style reception Sept. 25.
"To say that the gaming landscape in Maryland has changed since the day we opened in [September] 2010 would be an understatement," said Matthew Heiskell, the casino's general manager.
Joe Cavilla, general manager of the state's second casino, Ocean Downs, told the commission that the casino is embarking on a large building project but that it was too soon to provide details.
"I hope to be able to talk about what goes in it at an upcoming meeting," Cavilla said.
AUDIO: Listen to the interview with Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery