New casino on Po­tomac River filled to ca­pac­ity since open­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MCDERMOTT

Mary­land’s sixth and new­est casino opened Thurs­day night to a ca­pac­ity crowd — and has been filled to ca­pac­ity since then.

Within 12 hours of open­ing, more than 50,000 peo­ple had streamed through the mas­sive MGM Na­tional Harbor Re­sort & Casino and passed its glit­tery ar­ray of 3,300 flash­ing slot ma­chines, walked around its one-of-a-kind sculp­tures stretch­ing up to a glass roof and strolled out onto an ex­pan­sive ter­race of­fer­ing a chilly panorama of the Po­tomac River.

“It’s like you’re ac­tu­ally in Ve­gas. You get that,” said Shawn Tith, a poker player from Springfield, Vir­ginia, wan­der­ing the atrium of the 125,000-square-foot casino. “Just look at the stuff around you.”

Mr. Tith vis­ited the re­sort late Fri­day morn­ing, when crowds had waned only a bit. MGM had to turn away thou­sands of cus­tomers af­ter the re­sort reached ca­pac­ity less than an hour af­ter open­ing its doors Thurs­day night.

Twit­ter snap­shots of the Cap­i­tal Beltway, Oxon Hill Road and the Woodrow Wil­son Bridge packed with bumper-to-bumper traf­fic abounded Thurs­day night.

Fri­day morn­ing’s “lull” gave way to an­other crush of pa­trons that af­ter­noon. By 3:30 p.m. the re­sort had re­leased a state­ment ask­ing some guests to post­pone their vis­its.

“Due to an over­whelm­ing re­sponse af­ter our suc­cess­ful Thurs­day grand open­ing, the MGM Na­tional Harbor casino floor again reached ca­pac­ity dur­ing the day on Fri­day,” MGM of­fi­cials said. “[Guests] with­out reser­va­tions for tonight or this week­end are en­cour­aged to con­sider mak­ing plans to visit the new re­sort an­other time, af­ter grand open­ing week­end.”

As late as Satur­day night, the Prince Ge­orge’s County gov­ern­ment Twit­ter ac­count ded­i­cated to Na­tional Harbor said that all in­com­ing visi­tors should just turn back.

“#MGMNa­tion­alHar­bor con­tin­ues to be at full ca­pac­ity. No ad­di­tional guests are able to en­ter the re­sort at this time,” the ac­count tweeted around 11 p.m. Satur­day.

Cur­tis Hurte and his wife, Dionne, drove more than three hours from a small town in south­ern Vir­ginia to take in the $1.4 bil­lion re­sort and casino.

“I wanted to come see how grand it was. It’s blow­ing my mind right now. When we walked in­side, I thought I was in Ve­gas,” Mr. Hurte said, star­ing up at a mas­sive sculp­ture tow­er­ing up to the vaulted glass ceil­ing.

“We didn’t think we were in Mary­land,” Mrs. Hurte chimed in.

The Hur­tes said they had lit­tle in­ter­est in gam­bling but were ex­cited to come back soon and visit one of the sev­eral res­tau­rants or see a show at the re­sort’s the­ater.

“I’d come out here just for din­ner, to look at the scenery,” Mr. Hurte said.

Ameni­ties for nongam­blers are plen­ti­ful, not the least of which be­ing a 12-foot choco­late foun­tain in the cen­ter of Bel­la­gio, a Euro­pean-style pas­try shop. The re­sort in­cludes res­tau­rants op­er­ated by celebrity chef Mar­cus Sa­muels­son, as well as lo­cal culi­nary masters Jose An­dres and the Volt­ag­gio broth­ers. It also fea­tures a 3,000-seat the­ater that will see Boyz II Men as its in­au­gu­ral act.

Be­sides the casino, the MGM re­sort — which started re­ceiv­ing guests Satur­day — offers a 300-room bou­tique ho­tel, a con­fer­ence cen­ter, art gal­leries and a flower con­ser­va­tory. Nightly room rates are set from $399 to $599.

“You don’t even have to step foot in­side the casino to en­joy the re­sort,” said an MGM spokes­woman. “You have to re­mem­ber, we’re an en­ter­tain­ment com­pany more than we’re a gam­ing com­pany.”

Adding to the glam­our, ac­tress Sarah Jes­sica Parker opened her first SPJ bou­tique at the casino, dis­play­ing shoes and hand­bags that cost up­wards of $700. Miss Parker showed up Thurs­day to the VIP open­ing flanked by — not Hol­ly­wood glit­terati — Washington po­literati, namely, for­mer House Speaker John A. Boehner, for­mer Mary­land Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and CNN host Wolf Bl­itzer.

For some, the open­ing of MGM Na­tional Harbor in Oxon Hill is as much about what the re­sort can do for Prince Ge­orge’s County as it is as about daz­zling cus­tomers.

County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern Baker III called the project a “wa­ter­shed” for the county. Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan said the new re­sort and casino would be trans­for­ma­tive for the re­gion.

“It is ex­cit­ing to see a re­spected, world-renowned brand like MGM make such a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the fu­ture of Prince Ge­orge’s County and the state of Mary­land,” Mr. Ho­gan said. “MGM Na­tional Harbor will have a tremen­dous eco­nomic im­pact on this re­gion, and our ad­min­is­tra­tion has been proud to fully sup­port this im­por­tant project.”

Ac­cord­ing to MGM Na­tional Harbor, about 6,300 peo­ple worked on the re­sort and casino since the ground­break­ing, and about 2,500 peo­ple have been em­ployed at the site each day. The re­sort and casino has cre­ated 3,600 per­ma­nent jobs, at least half of which, MGM said, were filled by lo­cal res­i­dents.

And while the week­end pro­vided a rush of ex­cite­ment for many of the tens of thou­sands of pa­trons who trekked to MGM Na­tional Harbor for a first taste of the at­trac­tions, it didn’t go off with­out a few hic­cups.

A fight broke out Thurs­day night, MGM of­fi­cials said, when a man made un­wanted ad­vances on a woman and her two male friends stepped in. The fight was bro­ken up quickly, with one man be­ing treated for cuts on his face.

“Any­time you get a lot of peo­ple to­gether, there is a pos­si­bil­ity you are go­ing to run into some prob­lems,” said MGM Re­sorts spokesman Gor­don Ab­sher.

RYAN M. MCDERMOTT/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

LET IT RIDE: MGM Na­tional Harbor Re­sort and Casino opened to the pub­lic Thurs­day, and was such a suc­cess that guests had to be turned away.

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