After much glitz, glamour and the rings of slot machines, MGM National Harbor celebrated its first full year Friday in Prince George’s County.
The $1.4 billion casino resort made several initiatives to become a good neighbor in the county, with two major goals: hiring minority businesses and ensuring as much as half its workforce be county residents.
“We are seeing that it is a grade-A facility,” said the Rev. J. Allen Chandler, chair of the Local Development Council, which recommends where money should be designated in neighborhoods within a three-mile radius of the resort. “One thing we continue to strongly advocate for is there be complete transparency in how the funds are being used.”
According to MGM officials, here’s a breakdown on some current figures:
• Spent nearly $159 million in contracts with 62 minority businesses from the county;
• Made $6 million in renovations and other improvements to the former Thomas Addison Elementary School in Oxon Hill slated to open next year as a county community center; and
• About 47 percent of the 3,700 employees are county residents that expect to reach 50 percent by 2021.
“A year ago, there were 3,700 jobs that didn’t exist and now they are here. That is a big deal,” said Kerry Watson Jr., vice president of government affairs for MGM who graduated from Largo High School and is a former county police officer. “We have just outperformed and we are really proud of that.”
Watson said a major figure comes from MGM’s contribution of more than $167 million in the Maryland’s Education Trust Fund, which the state calculates and distributes for Prince George’s Public Schools.
One major concern from residents near the resort is traffic, though Chandler and county officials said traffic has flowed much smoother since the grand opening last year.
But Brenda Taylor, a Fort Washington resident says it’s definitely increased, especially on the major thoroughfare of Route 210. Fortunately for Taylor, she manages her cleaning company, TaylorMade Solutions, from home. One of her clients: MGM.
“Before [MGM built] the casino, they made a lot of promises to hire people in the county and hire businesses in the county,” said Taylor, whose minority business has 15 employees. “I know there are a lot of employees who work at MGM and live in P.G. County, so I know [MGM] has kept their promises that way.”
Future County Impact
Monitoring traffic near the resort will continue to be a top priority in the county, especially with road construction work along Route 210 near completion.
Brad Frome, who manages economic development and public infrastructure in the county executive’s office, said in an email Friday there’s been a proactive approach to devise a traffic plan to decrease minimal disruptions.
Residents can sign up to receive emails on major events at http://bit.ly/2A5YzqG.
Since MGM moved in the county, it’s become the county’s top taxpayer with an estimated $32 million for this fiscal year, said Tom Himler, budget director for the county executive’s office, who added that about $7.1 million has been generated this fiscal year to use in communities directly affected for activities such as summer youth employment, renovations along Route 210 and grants to nonprofit organizations.
The county revenue could gradually increase, based on figures from the Maryland Gaming Commission.
The six casinos in the state generated $130.5 million last month, with MGM number one at $50.6 million. The casino has brought in the most revenue among the six operations since March, according to the commission.
The more than six million visitors have not only spent time inside the 125,000-square-foot casino, but also stayed at the 300-room hotel and frequent the resort’s spa and salon, conservatory and more than two dozen restaurants and retail stores.
The 3,000-seat MGM theater will end the year with a two-day show Dec. 20-21 featuring Bruno Mars, who appeared as one of the first acts last year. The last concert of this year will star Maze featuring Frankie Beverly on Dec. 29.
Two days later on New Year’s Eve, the resort will pay homage to the 1980s with the Deloreans Band.
“MGM National Harbor has created an international tourism draw to Prince George’s County,” Himler said.