MGM Wins Casino License in Maryland

A highly favored proposal by MGM Resorts International has won a license to open a large casino near the nation's capital.

The Maryland Video Lottery Commission voted 5-2 in favor of MGM's plan. The board heard from all three candidates before making their decision Friday, but MGM's proposal was an early favorite due to its location at National Harbor.

"I want to build the most beautiful, iconic and successful resort," said Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International. "I think outside of Las Vegas, this will be the most profitable commercial resort in the United States, and I want to bring that here."

Murren said the resort will create 2,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs.

In addition to a casino with 3,600 slot machines and 140 table games, the MGM proposal features:

  • A 300-room hotel with a luxury spa and rooftop pool
  • Seven restaurants operated by local and celebrity chefs
  • High-end shops, like Tiffany and Co., Hermes and Prada
  • A 1,200-seat theater venue
  • 35,000 square feet of meeting and event space
  • A fountain that will also serve as a ice skating rink in the winter

Don Fry, the chairman of the state's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, said he believed the amenities at the MGM proposal were stronger. Commissioners who supported the MGM proposal also said it would raise more money for the state.

"I think that it is truly a destination resort, which is one of the criteria that we take into consideration, and the infrastructure is far superior," Fry said after the vote.

Penn National, based in Wyomissing, Pa., had proposed a $700 million casino at the company's Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, about 13 miles from Washington. The Hollywood Casino Resort at Rosecroft Raceway would have included slot machines, live table games and a poker room. The plan also included a hotel with a pool and spa, and a multipurpose event center. Rosecroft also would have featured horse racing.

Maryland Casino LLC, a subsidiary of Greenwood Racing, proposed the $800 million Parx Casino Hotel & Spa on a 22-acre parcel in Fort Washington with a hotel and entertainment venue. Greenwood Racing owns and operates Pennsylvania's highest revenue-generating casino, Parx Casino.

"MGM has a better approach... MGM will attract high rollers," said Commissioner Ella H. Pierce.

MGM Resort International's CEO James Murren said the casino will have views of the monuments in D.C. due, in part, to its height. The building will span more than 1 million square feet. MGM says their casino will create more than 4,000 jobs.

MGM’s proposal also did well with analysts reviewing the location.

"MGM has a better location," said Will Cummings of Cummings Associates. "MGM is almost three to four minutes closer to everyone in the market place."

Consultants told the Video Lottery Commission that most of Prince George’s gamblers will come from Virginia and D.C., including tourists. Analysts said MGM's location at the corner of the Beltway and I-295 outweighs the advantage of the larger casino proposed by Parx, the subsidiary of Greenwood Racing.

The consultants also advised the board that the MGM location would bring in more money due to its location. They projected $713 million in revenue for and MGM casino compared to $560 million for Penn National and $682 million for Parx.

Commissioners expressed concern about economic projections by consultants for Penn National and had questions about transportation infrastructure near the proposed Parx casino.

Commissioners also noted that they were pleased with the casino design proposed by MGM. They said MGM also stood better to draw customers because of their casinos in other parts of the country, like Las Vegas.

National Harbor already is a 300-acre development of shops and restaurants and waterfront hotels that first started opening in 2008 on the Potomac River across from Washington, where the monuments of the nation's capital are visible from the development's parking garages.

A casino can't open in the county until 2016. It will be the sixth casino in the state. Four casinos already have opened, and another is being built in Baltimore.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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