Though MGM Resorts International won the state's Prince George's County casino license just last month, the company has had a point man in Maryland for more than a year.
Lorenzo Creighton was tapped for the job of president and chief operating officer of MGM National Harbor in October 2012, and he's been building MGM's connections with local communities, institutions and businesses since.
A former gambling regulator in Iowa and Mississippi, Creighton served as president and chief operating officer of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and MGM Grand Detroit during a previous stint with the company. He was hired back by MGM for the National Harbor job from a Vancouver casino company.
MGM calls Creighton a "veteran of the gaming industry," and said he was the first African-American to be named president of a major Las Vegas casino — the New York-New York — in 2005.
Since assuming his new position, Creighton has worked with a small staff out of National Harbor, navigating local regulatory issues and preparing for the launch of the company's first resort in Maryland from the ground up.
Between now and mid-2016, when MGM hopes to open its $925 million resort south of Washington, Creighton's team will balloon to include some 4,000 resort employees.
Creighton said there is "no end" to his to-do list.
What does your job entail, and how do you interact with MGM Resorts International executives?
Most of my time is spent here in Maryland working on the many logistics required to launch a project of this magnitude. Our current staff is far smaller than the thousands we will employ when we open. But that means the few of us must wear many hats and handle many different issues.
At MGM Resorts, developing a new resort draws on the depth and breadth of all the company's resources. While my office has been at National Harbor for more than a year, I am on daily calls with colleagues in Las Vegas, Detroit and Biloxi [Miss.]. We have so much interaction that we installed a new teleconferencing system in our office that allows us to participate in meetings as if we were there in the room.
Most days don't end at 5 o'clock. I am often meeting late or attending community events with local business and community leaders, potential vendors or partners, union leaders, and others. This is really a multilayered project. Building a resort may seem to be a linear process, but to keep on schedule we must constantly operate on multiple tiers. While we are reviewing design plans and negotiating with contractors, we are also seeking approvals from regulators. On another front, we are making plans with entertainers and chefs while developing and booking a meeting and convention program; while we are formulating plans to interview and hire thousands of operations staff, we are designing uniforms and developing training programs to deliver peerless customer service.
What still needs to happen in Prince George's County before you see shovels in the ground?
We have some additional paperwork and approvals we need to secure from Prince George's County, but little more than what is required for any other development. Every jurisdiction has its process. We're working our way through this one and are hoping for a level of cooperation that will help us meet an ambitious construction schedule and allow us to open as close to July 2016 as possible.
You are still searching for local- and minority-owned business partners for MGM National Harbor. What are you looking for?
Like most others, we are looking for competent, qualified vendors with the appropriate skills and certifications for the many trades and services we need. We were the first in the industry to communicate our commitment to supplier diversity and to identify minority-, women- and disadvantaged-owned businesses. To support this commitment, our company has a full-time team of professionals dedicated to ensuring local business owners gain awareness and access to contracting opportunities at our resorts. We've been building a database in Maryland for more than a year, meeting with, talking to and collecting information from local [Minority Business Enterprises], so we can maintain that same robust effort on this project. Minority- and women-owned businesses seeking contracts with MGM Resorts are required to be certified by a recognized third-party certifying agency.
What are some of the specific amenities or features of the planned resort that you are looking forward to taking advantage of?
I enjoy fine dining, good wine paired with good food. Fortunately, our resorts employ some of the best experts at both. I enjoy great entertainment events — especially concerts and boxing. I enjoy the relaxing feel of a luxury resort, where you can let yourself relax and be pampered.
But I think the thing I am going to enjoy the most will be the unique opportunity we will have at MGM National Harbor, where guests will be able to merge all the things I just mentioned with the distinctive offerings of this area. The history, culture and events come alive like nowhere else. To have the amenities of an MGM resort set against the backdrop of Maryland and Washington, D.C., is going to present unparalleled appeal to travelers.
Assuming the answer isn't playing slots or table games, what's your favorite way to spend a weekend?
When you choose a career in the hospitality industry, you have to get used to working a lot of nights and weekends. This is not a 9-to-5 job. We work so others can play. I've spent a lot of time over the last 18 months at dinners, community events and celebrations meeting the people in our community. While it is part of my job, I really do enjoy that.
When I get some time on my own, I'll try a new restaurant, or take in a concert or a ballgame. I also enjoy just getting out and exploring the history and culture of my new home in Maryland.
Title: MGM National Harbor president and chief operating officer
Residence: National Harbor
Education: Bachelor of Arts in political science from Luther College; Juris Doctor from Drake Law School
Birthplace: Waterloo, Iowa
Hobbies/interests: Sports (mostly watching), especially football and boxing; collecting and enjoying fine wines; meeting up-and-coming chefs; serving on the board of directors of Usher's New Look FoundationCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun