MGM Resorts International presented an early look Wednesday at the design for its proposed $800 million casino and resort at National Harbor in Prince George's County — a glassy echo of Washington monuments atop a 1,600-foot-long stepped pedestal.
MGM is one of three companies bidding for a license to build the state's sixth casino, to be located in the suburban D.C. county. The other bidders are Penn National Gaming, a casino and racetrack operator already in Maryland, and Greenwood Racing, which owns Pennsylvania's most successful casino.
MGM's casino would sit above a pedestal terraced to handle the site's 90-foot elevation change, hiding a seven-story parking garage and accommodating outdoor dining, fountains and parks. Rising above the casino would be a glassy 18-story hotel tower the company said would have views of the National Mall in Washington.
A skylight would run along the spine of the roof connecting the hotel to the rest of the property.
MGM CEO Jim Murren, putting on a presentation that included video animation, said the project would be a "gateway" into the state and should be visually striking. The site, along the Potomac River, is visible from the Capital Beltway as drivers cross into Maryland from Virginia.
"The design has to be perfect," Murren said. "The location is perfect. ... We wanted to give you a sense that we're in this to win this."
It's the first competitive casino project in Maryland, and the state is expected to pick a winning bidder by the end of the year. Maryland's Video Lottery Facility Location Commission plans site visits and public meetings on Oct. 21, 23 and 25.
The commission wants "to view the proposed location, observe the surrounding community, get a sense of the size and scope of the proposed facilities, to hear directly from the applicants, and to listen to the public support and public concerns" about each of the proposed projects, said Donald C. Fry, chairman of the commission and also president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, in a statement.
Scott L. Peterson, a spokesman for Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said the county doesn't intend to "actively lobby" for any of the projects while the state makes its choice.
"The county executive has always advocated for an upscale resort, hotel, casino complex that would create jobs and maximize the revenue for Prince George's County … and the state of Maryland," he said.
The two other bidders selected different sites in Prince George's County, both within a few miles of National Harbor and the Capital Beltway.
Penn National, which owns Hollywood Casino Perryville, wants to build at Rosecroft Raceway, which it bought out of bankruptcy two years ago. It said it would build a $700 million casino and hotel complex at the troubled harness track that would include 140 table games and 500 slot machines. (It has said it would increase the number to 3,000 if selected for the license.)
Greenwood would build a Parx Casino Hotel & Spa to the south on an Indian Head Highway property. The $800 million project would include 170 table games and 4,750 slot machines.
MGM has proposed 140 table games and 3,600 slots.
Murren argued Wednesday that the number of slots isn't the key to maximizing economic impact. The deciding factor is a project that will attract international tourists and others from out of town who will spend money on more than gambling, he said.
After the presentation, Murren dismissed any notion that its difficulties in New Jersey could spill over to Maryland.
MGM is trying to persuade New Jersey regulators to allow it to hold on to its 50 percent ownership stake in an Atlantic City casino. Officials in that state had called the company's partner in a Chinese casino "unsuitable" because her father has been accused of — though not charged with — having links to organized crime.
Murren said he feels "very good about the facts in New Jersey" and believes the company will be relicensed.
"We know that Maryland has had a robust investigative process in every jurisdiction in which we operate," he said. "I think it'll be a nonfactor in whether or not we win this resort."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun