Local BusinessPrince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

MGM National Harbor Reopens Amid Pandemic

The MGM National Harbor casino resort reopened at 6 a.m. Monday after being shuttered for more than three months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Visitors such as Falisha Shabazz of Richmond, Virginia, played some blackjack and roulette Monday morning, as fewer seats than usual were separated by plexiglass to protect other players and employees. For extra precaution, each table has hand sanitizer.

“You don’t have to worry about people bumping all into you. Social distancing is good,” Shabazz said. “[MGM] is clean and comfortable. Everybody is nice. It was cool to come when not many people are here.”

Every other seat will be available for slot machines at MGM National Harbor casino resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland, as it reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Every other seat will be available for slot machines at MGM National Harbor casino resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland, as it reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Employees also appreciate the additional safety measures such as a four-sink, hand-washing station on the casino floor near the slot machines. Soap, water and paper towels automatically flow when placing a hand underneath each dispenser.

Hand sanitizer stations are placed at various parts of the resort. The hotel entrance also provides a mask station for anyone without a face covering.

Hotel guests receive a complimentary package containing a mask, hand sanitizer spray and a stylus that enables slot machine play without having to touch the buttons or pull the levers.

Contactless temperature checks are conducted on anyone entering the casino. If a person’s temperature is 100.4 or higher, they must leave the property and seek medical attention.

“I was a little nervous, but I’m really happy about all the safety measures MGM is providing us with to feel safe and healthy,” said Yolanda Perez, an MGM employee who works at the table games. “We clean the area after every guest leaves the table to make sure everything is sanitized. As long as we keep maintaining safe and healthy protocols, then I believe we can get through this safely.”

In terms of table games, plexiglass separates players and employees and available seats will be cut in half. Seats at blackjack tables have been decreased from six seats to three, while craps tables will go from 12 seats to six. Functioning slot machines will be separated by one unavailable for play.

“We want to open things up the right way,” said MGM Resorts Vice President of Administration John Flynn. “It’s a way of getting our employees comfortable. It’s a way of getting our guests comfortable. It’s a way to reinforce the trust and confidence with our customer base that we are doing things to keep health and safety as a number-one priority.”

John Flynn, vice president of administration and head of health/safety strategy for MGM Resorts International, uses one of four sinks at a hand-washing station on the casino floor inside MGM National Harbor on June 25 at it prepares to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
John Flynn, vice president of administration and head of health/safety strategy for MGM Resorts International, uses one of four sinks at a hand-washing station on the casino floor inside MGM National Harbor on June 25 at it prepares to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

MGM will open the same day that Prince George’s County goes fully into phase two of its reopening plan, allowing several businesses including bingo halls, fitness centers and shopping malls to resume operations. However, they cannot exceed 50 percent capacity.

According to the county executive order, outdoor youth sports can expand from 50 to 100 people in any area, but small groups must remain with no more than nine children and one coach per group.

Personal services such as tattoo parlors, spas and massage parlors can reopen, but operate at just 50 percent capacity or less and by appointment only, with one customer per 200 square feet.

Churches and other houses of worship may expand indoor services to 50 percent capacity, but must provide safeguards such as hand sanitizer and implement physical distancing requirements. Religious leaders can hold outdoor activities and services with up to 250 people if appropriate social distance measures are applied and access to hand washing or hand sanitizers is provided.

MGM opened earlier than other businesses in the county because it’s regulated by the state lottery and gaming commission.

Because Prince George’s continues to record the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, indoor pools, government buildings, movie theaters, senior citizen centers, concert venues and nightclubs will remain closed.

As of Monday, the county has more than 19,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The executive order for phase two will remain in effect through July 9.

At MGM, J.T. Tillman said he wasn’t sure if he would play any card games, specifically blackjack, because the tables he saw started at a minimum of $50.

“I’m not really a high roller. I don’t come here to try and pay any bills. I just come to enjoy the games,” said Tillman, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia. “I stay here at least once every six weeks. It’s probably one of the nicer casinos in the area.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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