National Press Club

MGM chief touts National Harbor casino as boon to regional economy

December 5, 2016 | By Julia Haskins | juliaannehaskins@gmail.com

MGM Resorts International chairman and chief executive James Murren told a Dec. 2 National Press Club luncheon audience that the firm's new National Harbor casino will boost regional economic growth.

MGM Resorts International chairman and chief executive James Murren told a Dec. 2 National Press Club luncheon audience that the firm's new National Harbor casino will boost regional economic growth.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

MGM Resorts International chairman and chief executive James Murren said Friday that the company's new hotel and casino opening Dec. 8 at National Harbor in Maryland is about more than gambling and promised it would be a boon to the regional economy.

The $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort will offer a range of retail, dining and entertainment experiences, which Murren said reflects MGM’s growth from a holding company associated with the gaming industry.

“Calling MGM a gaming company is a little like calling Verizon a telephone company,” Murren said at a National Press Club luncheon. “That myopic view misses the bigger story, mainly the ability of successful companies to evolve, to redefine their markets.”

MGM National Harbor, Murren said, will attract visitors from around the world seeking high-class entertainment, from sporting events to theatrical performances. The “entertainment hub” will keep both international and domestic visitors in the region longer, further bolstering the local economy.

“We feel strongly that if we simply just increase gaming revenue in the state of Maryland, we’ve failed,” Murren said. “What we’re really trying to do is drive economic activity to the region. I do believe that a lot of folks around the country are going to take a peek at National Harbor and say, ‘Oh, I’d like to have that in my town.'”

The integrated resort and casino will also create thousands of jobs for local residents, Murren said. About 47% of employees will be residents of Prince George’s County, with more expected over time. Murren said workers will benefit from long-term employment opportunities that will help them achieve financial security.

“The investments that we can make provide the platform for the communities and the people that work with us and for us,” Murren said.

Minorities will also make up more than 80% of the workers at MGM National Harbor.

Diversity is valued highly at MGM, Murren said, and the National Harbor property, with its “uniquely Maryland” flavor, will honor the contributions of African-Americans in Prince George’s County.

“We knew this important site needed to have the most important level of care,” he said. “We knew art needed to be a part of this...to celebrate the rich heritage of the region and the African-American community and African-American artists.”

Murren said he is open to competition from other properties, including those owned by President-elect Donald Trump, a major figure in the resort and entertainment industry.

“We are pro-competition in any legal, regulated, transparent way,” Murren said.

While Trump’s hotel in the Washington, D.C., is not far from MGM National Harbor, Murren said the two entities are quite different, noting that the new MGM property offers more than lodging alone.

A Republican, Murren said he endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he called “the better candidate.” He said he was “extremely impressed” meeting Clinton when she was Secretary of State, and lauded her support for the Travel Promotion Act.

Murren has met Trump several times but said he has no personal relationship with him. He welcomed the president-elect to visit MGM National Harbor when it opens.

While he did not support Trump in his presidential run, Murren said he “can’t wait to work with the president-elect and Congress about issues that I think are very important to me and my company.”

One issue Murren hopes to address with the administration is improving regulation in the gaming industry.