MGM National Harbor Announces $48M Expansion to $1.4 Billion Property, Poker Room Moving Upstairs

Posted on: July 16, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: July 16, 2018, 12:11h.

MGM National Harbor is expanding its gaming space less than two years after the $1.4 billion integrated casino resort in Maryland opened its doors back in December 2016.

MGM National Harbor expansion
MGM National Harbor is moving its poker room to a bigger space to accommodate large crowds. (Image: MGM/Facebook/

MGM Resorts announced over the weekend that it will spend $48 million to move and expand its poker room to the second floor. The project also includes an off-track horse betting area, new dining and bar offerings, and 285 additional slot machines.

An outdoor smoking terrace overlooking the Potomac River is also being built.

“We never anticipated the volume we’d have at this property,” MGM National Harbor President Melonie Johnson told The Baltimore Sun. Johnson said poker in particular is what convinced the company to invest in the expansion.

“We thought this is going really well, so let’s add space. That was the decision maker to move poker to the second floor,” Johnson explained.

Johnson said the area being developed has been “unused space” on the second floor.

The current poker room on the first floor just off the main casino has indeed been congested. Wait times as long as three hours for a seat have been reported.

One recent review posted online bashed MGM for forcing poker players to stay in the vicinity of the room as they wait. “This is a billion-dollar property – they can’t come up with any technology to page your cell phone when your table is ready?” asked the disgruntled patron.

Turf Wars

MGM National Harbor almost immediately after its 2016 opening became the dominant casino of Maryland’s seven land-based venues. The Oxon Hill resort has reported total gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $343.16 million year-to-date, or about 40 percent of the state’s collective $863.38 million casino revenue.

Live Casino & Hotel, the gambling venue that was the largest GGR earner before National Harbor, has gone on an investment spree in order to compete with the larger MGM resort that’s located some 40 miles away.

Last month, Live opened a 310-room hotel tower, two more rooms than what’s offered at National Harbor. The casino, which is located near BWI airport in Arundel Mills, also added an outdoor gaming space where smoking is permitted, event center, and spa.

Live remains Maryland’s second richest casino. The resort saw GGR soar over 15 percent in June to $48.2 million.

Not-So-Friendly Neighbors

The Cordish Companies, the parent group to the Live brand, sued MGM Resorts in July 2016 on grounds that the casino operator was obtaining its coveted high-roller lists through ill-gotten ways.

Live argued MGM pursued three of its employees who served as VIP hosts. MGM said Live is “resorting to threatening its current and former employees with unenforceable non-compete provisions.” The lawsuit remains unresolved.

Live has plenty of reason to be upset regarding the addition of MGM National Harbor. The casino controlled 54 percent market share of Maryland GGR in 2016. Today, it accounts for 33 percent of total win.