The MGM National Harbor in Maryland is barely nine months old. Yet it has come to dominate the region’s casino landscape. According to the latest revenue report released by state gaming authorities, MGM is leading notable growth in Maryland’s casino industry.

MGM National Harbor Fuels Maryland Casino Growth

The MGM National Harbor is driving up Maryland’s casino sector revenue growth, practically by itself. Not necessarily good news for nearby competitors that opened before the state allowed for casino megaresorts. (Image: Smith Group)

In August, Maryland’s six casinos yielded a healthy $137.5 million return for the month. That’s nearly a record (March saw $140.6 million in gambling revenues), and a 37 percent increase compared to August 2016.

Almost all the credit for that growth goes to MGM’s $1.4 billion resort, which opened in December, on 300 visible acres on the banks of the Potomac River, about 10 miles from the White House in Washington, DC. The casino is especially strong in the summer months, analysts say, because of its proximity to Washington DC’s popular tourist destinations.

Shiny New Casino

With 135,000 square feet of casino floor, MGM National Harbor generated $52.8 million in gaming revenue, making for the fifth month out of the past six to exceed $50 million.

At MGM’s recent Q2 earnings call, CEO Jim Murren said that the National Harbor “couldn’t be doing better.”

As a whole, MGM Resorts International reported positive revenue growth of 16.3 precent (to $2.64 billion) for Q2 2017, and Murren attributed much of the company’s strong performance to the success of National Harbor, which added $177.8 million to MGM’s overall net gains during that period.

However, if you were to exclude National Harbor from gaming results, the state’s casino revenue fell by 15.7 percent compared to last year. Live, formerly Maryland Live, took the biggest hit, seeing August gaming revenues of $44.7 million, for a 19.9 percent drop. The Horseshoe saw an even steeper 21.3 percent year-over-year decline, with revenues of $21.8 million.

The state’s smaller casinos further away from Washington, DC, however, fared better. The slots-only Ocean Downs racino grew its August revenues 11.9 percent, to $6.9 million, while Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Western Maryland grew 6.1 percent, to $4.8 million. Hollywood Casino Perryville saw a 5.4 percent revenue increase, to nearly $6.3 million.

Strategic Advantage

The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that National Harbor would’ve ranked fourth if comparing its revenue results with numbers from MGM’s nine Las Vegas properties.

Maryland legalized casino gambling by public referendum in 2008 as a means to provide extra funding for education programs, just as the global recession was kicking into gear. But the first wave of regulations only allowed for slot parlors in five locations.

By 2012, an additional referendum permitted full-fledged casino gaming, complete with poker, craps, roulette, blackjack, and other table games, while also providing a sixth license, which allowed for MGM to jump into the state with a property that began as much more than the older properties ever envisioned.