MGM Resorts International will open a visitor center at National Harbor next week as part of its campaign to win approval of its plans to build a "destination" casino at the site on the Potomac River.
The international casino and entertainment company said it will open a storefront center along the mixed-use development's main drag to offer visitors information about MGM's plans to the resort, which will likely be decided in a referendum on gambling expansion in November.
MGM has been spending millions on television ads in its battle with Penn National Gaming over the fate of Question 7, which will ask voters whether they approve of table games at all casinos and a new gambling location in Prince George's County. MGM, the largest casino operator in Las Vegas, sees a lucrative opportunity in a site that can capture much of the affluent Washington market and its tourist trade.
Penn National has ample reason to oppose a new Prince George's casino. While the Pennsylvania-based company is eligible to apply for a license at its Rosecroft Raceway near National Harbor, the company believes the process is tilted in favor of the riverfront site favored by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. Penn National is also concerned that a National Harbor casino could cut into its gambling earnings at Charles Town, W. Va., which draws many customers from the Washington region.
Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM, said the purpose of the center is to provide local residents and National Harbor visitors wiith information about the company.
"This is not a campaign office, this is an MGM Resorts office. We are here to introduce our company to the community," he said.
Absher said MGM derives more than 60 percent of its revenues from sources other than gambling. He said the proposed project at National Harbor would provide jobs for chefs, attorneys, engineers and spa therapists as well as card dealers and bartenders.
"We're in the destination resort business," he said. The office is expected to be open Monday after a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Thursday.
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