The new MGM National Harbor casino resort opened for business Dec. 8. (Travis Riddick)
**FILE** MGM National Harbor casino resort (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer) Credit: Travis Riddick

Malcolm Bullock sat inside the newly-opened MGM National Harbor casino resort Sunday at a slot machine, about 10 hours before his beloved Dallas Cowboys played the New York Giants.

Bullock, 43, of Temple Hills, who also visited the casino the day before, said it will benefit Prince George’s County, even if luck wasn’t exactly on his side Sunday.

“This is something that adds credibility to the county,” he said while losing some money playing the “Wild Red” slot machine. “It makes the county more enticing to visit. This adds something to the harbor, too. For me, it’s a lot easier to come here than to go to Baltimore or Maryland Live [in Anne Arundel County].”

Bullock is among the thousands who have flocked to the $1.4 billion casino resort since it officially opened late Thursday night.

Within an hour of opening the casino for the public, MGM reached its full capacity, officials said.

Maryland State Police closed three exits off the Beltway to alleviate traffic on the nearby Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“Guests with hotel and dinner reservations are encouraged to arrive early and allow time for heavy, potentially crowded roadway conditions,” according to a statement from MGM on Friday. “Others without reservations for tonight or this weekend are encouraged to consider making plans to visit the new resort another time, after grand opening weekend.”

After the crunch of the initial 24-hour period, during which police and county officials anticipated as many as 30,000 visitors to the resort, traffic slowed down to a moderate pace, as MGM officials issued hourly alerts via a traffic-notification system throughout the opening weekend.

The alerts resumed prior to Monday afternoon rush hour, informing people: “MGM National Harbor and the National Harbor are open for business. Traffic is flowing smoothly.”

However, the opening night was marred by a fight that broke out inside the casino, as video of two men punching and kicking another man quickly made the rounds on social media.

On the same night, Charles W. Caldwell III, who chairs the county’s liquor board, was charged with driving under the influence and other traffic offenses after a minor crash near the resort. Two other vehicles were involved in the incident, though no one was injured, police said.

Caldwell, who was appointed two years ago by Gov. Larry Hogan as chair of the five-member Board of License Commissioners, resigned Tuesday at Hogan’s request.

An official from MGM did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

But those distractions didn’t deter the hordes of patrons who visited the resort Sunday, such as Pernell Lee and his daughter of Silver Spring. They sat in the conservatory beside the “Holiday Reflections” floral sculptures that showcase more than 150,000 flowers.

“It’s beautiful,” Lee said of the resort while his wife played some casino games.

Also on display is local artwork from artists such as Martha Jackson Jarvis, who has five mosaic glass pieces with images reflecting off the Potomac River.

“I think Prince George’s County has an open relationship with the arts community,” said Jackson Jarvis, who lives in Northeast but has owned a studio across the border in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, for more than 20 years. “It helps develop the artist community and develop a resource for the entire area. This is an exciting time.”

State, county and MGM officials celebrated their excitement hours before last week’s grand opening during an hourlong news conference inside the resort’s 3,000-seat theater, which will host various concerts, boxing matches and other events.

Besides the 125,000 square feet of casino space of gaming tables and slot machines, the resort features restaurants from renowned chefs, a 308-room hotel and a shoe boutique opened by actress and fashionista Sarah Jessica Parker.

Economically, the state and county expects the resort to generate millions of dollars in taxes and about 4,000 permanent jobs.

“One of the promises we made of this administration when I took over was that we were going to grow our commercial tax base,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “The thing that is greatest about [MGM National Harbor] is a watershed mark for us in the county. The signal it sends to businesses that [the county] is the place to be.”

State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Fort Washington appreciates the economic and job benefits, but hopes patrons don’t frequent the casino to the point of jeopardizing their livelihood.

“If they see this as a Las Vegas casino type of venue, then you become addicted,” he said Monday. “The families suffer. The person suffers. It would concern me that a person would go there three or four times a week. We hope the benefits don’t consume the liabilities of it being here.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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