Prince George's County Panel Approves MGM Casino Plan

Prince George's County officials on Monday approved a building plan for a $925 million MGM Resorts International casino and hotel near the nation's capital on an 8-1 vote, paving the way for MGM to get the permits needed to begin construction.

The casino, which will be designed to hold 3,600 slot machines and 140 table games like blackjack, could open as early as July 2016. Members of the Prince George's County District Council, which decides land use and zoning matters, expressed support for the plan as a major economic development engine. Work on grading the site at National Harbor already has started, and MGM hopes to move swiftly to get permits needed to begin construction to build the casino in time for a 2016 opening.

"We are, I think, on the precipice of a substantial step forward in economic development in Prince George's County,'' said County Councilman Mel Franklin, who chairs the panel.

The casino won the support of Maryland voters in a 2012 ballot question. It also has the backing of Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker.

County Councilwoman Mary Lehman cast the only vote against the plan.

"I heard the voters loud and clear on Question 7 and their approval of the expansion of gaming to include Prince George's, but I'm voting no because I hate to see the economic future of this county depend on games of chance,'' Lehman said.

MGM has said the resort, near the banks of the Potomac River at National Harbor, will result in about 2,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs.

"The economic impact will be something that the county can be proud of well into the future,'' said Lorenzo Creighton, president and CEO of MGM National Harbor.

Critics said the casino will worsen traffic congestion that residents in the area just outside Washington already experience. However, supporters say the state will examine ways to alleviate added congestion in the area.

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.

It will be the sixth casino in Maryland. A Horseshoe casino is scheduled to open as the state's fifth casino late next month in Baltimore.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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