MGM Resorts Gets on Power Lobby Bandwagon with New Washington, DC Office

Posted on: January 17, 2017, 01:15h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2017, 01:21h.

MGM Resorts is adding a new presence in Washington, DC to its recently opened, and already very succesful, $1.4 billion National Harbor casino that’s just across the Potomac in Maryland. The gaming and hospitality company is expanding its power in the nation’s capital by opening up a new office for “policymaking,” which you can be pretty sure will mean “lobbying.”

MGM Resorts Washington DC office Harry Reid
The departure of Nevada’s Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Congress may have been one impetus for MGM Resorts to hire his former chief counsel, who will work on the gaming operator’s behalf in Washington, DC. (Image: Scott Applewhite/AP)

Last week, MGM announced it is increasing its policy footprint on the federal level by investing in the office space in our nation’s capital.

Former Chief Counsel Ayesha Khanna, who worked with recently retired Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), will head up the center. The longtime congressional legal advisor will assume the title of “senior vice president of federal government affairs” for MGM Resorts International.

According to land records, MGM paid $3.75 million for the building located at 501 C Street NE, Washington, DC, 20002. The property was built in 1890 and comes with 6,845 square feet of office space.

Powering Up

MGM’s CEO Jim Murren made it no secret that he wasn’t a fan of President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign, openly endorsing his opponent Hillary Clinton in an op-ed.

And as of last month, Murren still hadn’t backed down, even after the former casino owner won the presidency.

“It’s incumbent upon me to do what I can to promote diversity and inclusion, to promote better behavior, to dial back the rhetoric that’s been so hateful and damaging,” Murren recently told the National Press Club in DC. “As an employer and businessperson, not an elected official, that employs 71,000 men and women, I have a deep commitment to them and what they care about.”

Murren also opined last fall that Trump’s presidency might impair relations with China. He said that while the US disagrees with the Asian country on multiple topics, “There’s been a degree of respect.”

Continuing cordial dealings with China is important to Murren, as MGM owns and operates resorts in Macau and Hainan.

The casino operator setting up a political office just steps from the United States Capitol gives MGM a strong presence close to where the most important legislative policies will be decided.

Connecting with Policy Makers

 A host of important topics could find their way to Congress in the coming year. Everything from daily fantasy sports and sports betting, to restoring the Wire Act and outlawing illegal gambling, could potentially be on the docket.

The federal government also plays a key role in state land-based gaming. The Department of the Interior is the chief decision-maker in managing Native American territorial affairs.

Las Vegas no longer has its ally in Reid, and MGM apparently felt the loss of the Senate minority leader was one key reason to invest in a DC office. Khanna knows how Reid accomplished his goals, and will likely be able to retain many of the same relationships her former boss kept.

Of course, the companies behind Nevada’s casinos are no strangers to lobbying. The most powerful firm for the industry is the American Gaming Association. That organization’s office is located just one mile from where MGM will open its own office. You can expect them to share a Washington power lunch. . . or 300.