County Panel to Vote on MGM Casino Next Week

Prince George's County officials will vote on the building plan for a $925 million, Las Vegas-style casino and resort near the nation's capital next week, officials said Monday after a public hearing.

Members of the county council put off a vote until next Monday, because three members of the nine-member panel were away. The vote by the county council's district council, which considers zoning and land use, is considered the last major hurdle before construction can begin. Work on grading the site at National Harbor already has started.

While the casino won the support of Maryland voters in a 2012 ballot question and has the backing of Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, opponents have complained about plans for its large outside lights and the worsening of traffic that is already congested in the area next to the Potomac River across from Washington.

"You cannot just go ahead and allow them to build and then try to fix it later,'' said Karen Egloff, who lives near National Harbor. "I do not understand. What is the incredible rush when you see that things are not in place, when they are saying that there are serious studies of transportation going on?''

But supporters are highlighting big economic benefits for both the state of Maryland and the county. MGM has said the casino with 3,600 slot machines and 140 table games will result in about 2,000 construction jobs and 4,0000 permanent jobs. Arthur Horne, an attorney representing MGM, said studies have shown the current transportation infrastructure can accommodate the new facility.

"It's a reality there's a lot of traffic, but it's not so much traffic that you can't have additional development, and MGM's casino is within that trip cap, which means that it hasn't gone over the level that will require you to do additional road improvements, so we're sympathetic, but we also recognize that professionals are telling us that the transportation area, that that network, works,'' Horne said.

A Horseshoe casino is scheduled to open late next month in Baltimore. MGM would be able to open as soon as July 2016, if local officials sign off on the plan. Maryland now has four open casinos. The MGM casino would be Maryland's sixth casino after the Baltimore facility opens.

The next step after board approval of the National Harbor casino would be to get a building permit to begin constructing the foundation. Horne said MGM had been hoping to have that permit by the end of July, but that apparently will be pushed back into the first or second week of August, if the county panel approves the site plan Monday.

The MGM plan includes a luxury spa and rooftop pool at the hotel. It also includes plans for high-end retail, as well as fine and casual dining, a 1,200-seat theater venue, 35,000 square feet of meeting and event space and a 5,000-space parking structure.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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