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Prince George's County casino gets the go-ahead to start construction

The Prince George's County Council approved construction Monday of MGM Resorts' nearly $1 billion casino complex at National Harbor.

In an 8-1 vote, the council cleared MGM to apply for construction permits for the 23-acre site overlooking the Potomac River just south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Site preparation has begun and construction is expected to start in a few weeks on the nearly 1.1 million-square-foot structure. The planned casino is on track to open in July 2016.

MGM National Harbor will include a 21-story, 300-room hotel along with the casino's 3,600 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, assorted restaurants, a concert theater and luxury retailers.

MGM hired Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. to build the complex.

The County Council's vote comes seven months after a state panel awarded MGM the sixth and final available casino license in Maryland. Council member Mary Lehman, a Laurel Democrat, was the lone dissenter.

Construction of the project is expected to generate 2,000 jobs for the region, said Lorenzo Creighton, president and chief operating officer of MGM National Harbor, with 3,600 direct jobs created when the facility opens in 2016 — on an estimated $160 million payroll.

The casino already has begun negotiating with potential restaurants, including chef Marcus Saumelsson's Harlem restaurant Red Rooster, known for its American comfort food, Creighton said.

Extending seven stories underground the casino, a parking garage will hold nearly 5,000 cars, sparking concerns about traffic. Lorenzo said MGM is working with the Maryland State Highway Administration to develop a traffic management plan.

Other concerns included construction plans for five large electronic screens and building-mounted signs. Lorenzo said they fit the "interactive design" of the casino complex.

The casino is expected to be one of MGM's most profitable in the United States, Lorenzo said.

"We think it will be one of our more profitable resorts in the United States," he said."It's a great location in a great site and a great region. For MGM, it is a great project for us, considering the region and the potential for tourist draw."

mbodley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/michael_bodley

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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