Goodwin Gaming
October 15, 2013

DC-Area Casino Hopefuls Clear Regulatory Hurdle, Prepare For Close-Ups

By Abim Thomas

Each of the three companies competing for a casino in Prince George’s County — Greenwood Racing, MGM Resorts, and Penn National Gaming — received a stamp of approval from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which deemed them all qualified to operate the casino that Maryland voters authorized in a 2012 referendum (previously chronicled here in the Goodwin Gaming Blog).

The decision resulted from five months of investigation and a purported 4,500 hours of state officials examining the companies’ financial stability and executive leadership.  Two of the companies had conditions attached to their qualifications — specifically, that they avoid contact with certain prior executives with federal criminal convictions.

MGM, widely perceived to be the front-runner, has garnered most of the attention with headline-grabbers such as a proposed casino design unveiling – in which the Las Vegas Review-Journal found “shades of Vegas” but with a “nod to [the region’s] history,” and incorporating a style “[e]voking the steps of nearby federal landmarks.”  MGM also touts planned restaurants run by celebrity chefs, though it is playing its cards close to the vest as to which ones.  If it is selected, MGM could lose its 50 percent stake in an Atlantic City casino, though the company aims not to.

MGM has also begun outreach to the local business community, building a database of 1,000 DC-area companies that it may call upon for goods and services ranging “from construction contractors to printers to gaming firms to silverware dealers.”  Locals are excited about the potential for job creation, with estimates ranging from 4,000 to more than 8,000 permanent jobs from the casino, in addition to 2,000 construction jobs; all in all, it is estimated to bring $42 million in annual revenue to Prince George’s County.  Even Mayor Bill Euille of Alexandria (National Harbor’s across-the-Potomac neighbor) is supportive:  “Duh, it’s good for the local economy. … We’ve embraced National Harbor.  It’s good for the region, particularly here in Alexandria.”

Of course, not everyone is happy about the developments – some local community activists are urging residents to voice opposition to the casino project, expressing concern that new restaurants and shops could take business from existing local establishments.  Others have expressed concerns over possible market saturation, with the recent opening of five casinos in Maryland.  Maryland Live! Casino, with sits between Baltimore and DC and just opened a poker room in late August, raked in over $50 million in revenue in September alone, and some wonder how much more casino business the area can support.

Up next:  site tours and public hearings for each of the three proposed sites.  Penn National’s Rosecroft site is scheduled for Oct. 21, Greenwood’s proposed Fort Washington location is set for Oct. 23, and MGM’s spot in the National Harbor rounds out the week on Oct. 25.  Each visit includes a 2 p.m. tour, a 3:30 p.m. presentation, and a public hearing beginning at 6 p.m.

Maryland is expected to select the winning proposal by the end of this year, and hopes to have the casino up and dealing by mid-2016.