Maryland Live! MGM National Harbor Washington DC

Maryland Live! is constructing a $200 million hotel in an effort to keep up with the changing environment caused by the soon-to-be-opened MGM National Harbor. (Image: Matthew Cole/Capital Gazette)

The Washington, DC, casino power players are flexing their muscles. In anticipation of the opening of the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor later this year, Maryland Live! announced this week it’s investing $200 million to construct a 17-story hotel tower.

The two facilities are less than 40 miles from one another. In the unlikely event of no traffic, the MGM National Harbor and Maryland Live casinos aren’t even an hour’s drive apart.

Maryland Live is currently the state’s largest casino, a title it will lose when the National Harbor venue opens sometime in 2016. Based in Hanover, Maryland, Maryland Live cost $550 million to construct in 2012, or less than half of the MGM build.

The Cordish Companies, the Baltimore-based owners of Maryland Live, says it will expand its property to remain competitive.

“Maryland Live! Casino is the premier gaming, entertainment and retail destination serving the heart of Baltimore/Washington,” Cordish Global Gaming Group President Robert Norton said. “The addition of our flagship Live! Hotel is just the latest investment we are making to ensure Maryland Live! continues to be the preferred choice for . . . world-class gaming and entertainment.”

DC Turf War

Though Maryland Live competes with the Horseshoe Casino for the Baltimore market, for the last four years it’s largely held a monopoly on DC gambling.

Maryland Live generated $629.7 million in 2015 revenue, with $400.7 million coming from slots and video lottery terminals. The Baltimore Horseshoe collected $289.4 million total.

Residents in the DC metro currently have to travel 30 miles north to Maryland Live if they want to gamble. Come fall or winter, a billion-dollar casino will be located just 10 miles from the White House.

“MGM wasn’t in the original plan when Maryland Live opened,” Maryland Delegate Pam Beidle (D-District 32) told The Washington Post. Beidle’s county greatly benefits from the casino’s revenues.

“They were planning for a lot of their traffic coming from the south,” the lawmaker explained. But now much of that traffic is expected to stay put in DC.

MGM is making no secret that it wants to take over the DC gambling market.

“The reason why we’re investing to the degree we are is because we don’t believe it is a regional casino,” MGM CEO Jim Murren said last year. Murren believes the MGM National Harbor will become a resort destination where visitors to the nation’s capital stay and play.

Plenty to Play With

DC isn’t just a metro densely populated where agonizing traffic is the norm. It’s also home to many of the most affluent neighborhoods in America.

The District of Columbia’s immediate surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia, commonly referred to as the DMV, has 10 million residents. And many of them are extremely well-off.

The 2015 Washington DC Metro Area Median Income (AMI) for a family of four came in at $109,200. For DC, Arlington, and Alexandria, the median household income of $91,193 is roughly 1.5 times the national average.

With so much money in such a dense area, it’s no wonder MGM and Cordish are investing heavily in their Washington, DC, casinos.