MGM Resorts met Maryland officials Friday and signed a letter of intent to develop a $800m casino resort at the National Harbor waterfront complex near the nation’s capital – subject to conditions. To go ahead, MGM requires that lawmakers allow both slots and tables, plus cut the high gambling tax in the state.
James Murren, Chairman & CEO of MGM, met with Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley and Senate President Thomas Miller and confirmed the Las Vegas-based casino operator would invest $600m develop an integrated resort, with National Harbor developer Peterson Cos. injecting a further $200m.
State officials are enthused to welcome the sixth casino to the mid-Atlantic state, but would still be subject to legislation approved by Maryland General Assembly, which would pave the way for a referendum by Maryland voters.
“If we’re wanted, we’re all in,” said Murren who explained the main focus of the integrated resort would not just be the casino, but entertainment amenities. He claimed that following approval, the property could open within three years.
Sitting only 10-miles north of Washington DC, the 350-acre national harbor complex serves as a bustling metro area for the nation’s capital. The proposed project would create 4,000 permanent jobs and heighten competition in surrounding states Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
“The opportunity to build a destination casino resort in the National Harbor complex was extremely compelling,” explained Murren, “We believe this ideal location will not only attract residents from Virginia and DC, but will also serve as a new amenity for the more than 40 million domestic and international visitors who travel to the Nation’s Capital each year.”
Milt Peterson, Founder & Chairman of Peterson Cos., added, “We share MGM’s vision for creating world-class facilities and their track record of success makes them an ideal partner. The power of the brands in the MGM Resorts portfolio and their loyal customer base of 60 million will attract customers from all around the globe.”
Already passing Senate, a bill to allow table games at Maryland’s five casino sites and MGM’s proposed resort in Prince George’s state is well under way. MGM was the first operator to express interest, but would only develop the property dependent on lawmakers meeting its conditions, including lowering the state’s current 67 percent gambling levy.
“We could not do it under the current laws,” Murren proclaimed in a Maryland news broadcast, “The tax rate is egregiously high.” Gov. O’Malley said he would be willing to look at reducing the tax to around the 52 percent mark, in order to secure the MGM deal.
The proposed 13-acre facility would create a luxury property that houses a luxury casino, restaurants, retail and casino with 4,000 VLTs and 250 tables. It would become the second largest casino in the state after the recently opened Maryland Live! who are enraged by the threat of new competition.
Representatives of the Cordish Company, operators of the Maryland Live! Casino slammed the plan and indicated they do not see the need for a change to the current rate of tax. Joe Weinber, President of Cordish, said, “Companies that haven’t invested a dime in Maryland have no right to demand concessions from the state.”
Maryland currently allows slots at five casino locations. Three casino have opened, including one in Perryville, Berlin and Hanover. Two others, one in Baltimore and one in western Maryland’s Rocky Gap Lodge are yet to open.
Should the General Assembly make changes to gaming legislation and meet MGM’s demands, a voters approval for the sixth location would be needed at a November referendum. The casino developer would also need to obtain construction approval from the Prince George’s county council.