Originally published December 20, 2013 at 12:17 p.m., updated December 23, 2013 at 3 p.m.
A Las Vegas-style casino is setting sail for National Harbor after a Maryland gaming commission ruled that the development would be the site of the sixth gaming location in the state.
MGM Resorts International emerged as the winner of a coveted gaming license needed to build a $925 million resort and casino along the Potomac River near Oxon Hill. Members of the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission awarded the gaming license to MGM in a 5-2 vote at its headquarters in Baltimore on Friday, Dec. 20.
"MGM has a different level of experience,” said David Fry, chair of the commission. "I think [it truly is] a destination resort."
The decision concludes a nearly year-long bidding war for the license. Penn National Gaming, owner of Rosecroft Raceway, had proposed the $700 million Hollywood Casino Resort, while Bensalem, Pa.-based Greenwood Racing Inc., proposed the $800 million Parx Casino Hotel & Spa in Fort Washington at the intersection of Route 210 and Old Fort Road.
But the commissioners consistently favored the National Harbor location praising it for its access to the Capital Beltway with its close proximity to the District and Virginia. MGM also impressed the commission with a lavish design that officials boasted would be the gateway to the Nation's Capital. Consultants for the commission said the National Harbor location would bring in as much $719 million annually, the most revenue of the three bids due to its location right off the Capital Beltway overlooking the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
“The iconic nature of the proposed construction … is something that would be significant,” said Michael G. Miller, a member of the commission. “The MGM site is uniquely visible.”
Officials from Penn National Gaming and Parx said they thought they had a winning chance with their proposals. Penn National touted that selecting it as the state’s sixth gaming location would revitalize the horse racing industry in Maryland. While Parx casino boasted that it would pledge as much as $200 million toward road improvements along Route 210 to ease traffic congestion if it was selected.
But commissioners questioned if Parx would be reimbursed by state agencies for funding infrastructure improvements and if the Penn National Gaming-owed Rosecroft could attract the same clientele as MGM.
“MGM would have the highest amount of income,” said Ella Pierce, a member of the commission. “MGM would attract ... high rollers.”
Still, Parx CEO Anthony Ricci said he had to respect the decision of the commission.
“It’s MGM’s day, they should enjoy it,” he said. “We really thought we would win.”
MGM officials spent no time reveling in the announcement after spending $40 million for the proposal, announcing they plan to open the casino in mid-2016.
“Five years from today, there will be a billion dollar casino along the banks of the Potomac,” said MGM Resorts CEO James Murren. “We think this can be the most successful casino and resort outside of Las Vegas.”
Still, more decisions lay ahead for Prince George’s County officials. National Harbor has created a cluster of developments in the middle of established residential communities that were built long before roadways became clogged along Oxon Hill Road and Route 210.