The Prince George’s County Council held the first of several hearings on gaming and community benefits on Feb. 11.
MGM Resorts International is planning on building a casino complex at National Harbor in Prince George’s County that could cost as much as $925 million. In their first hearing before the council, consultants John D. Simpson, Derek Albert and Sean Werdlow explained the effects of gaming, including the difference between problem gambling and pathological gambling.
Problem gambling is defined as an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behavior.
Severe problem gambling may eventually be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling, a common disorder associated with both social and family costs. According to the consultants’ presentation to the council, 1.2 percent of U.S. adults are lifetime pathological gamblers, while 1.5 percent are lifetime problem gamblers.
Residents that live within 50 miles of a casino are more likely to start gambling. Simpson asked the council if all nine districts were within 50 miles of the casino; all answered “yes.”
“You all have to come together as one,” Simpson told the council. “The casino is not going to look at you as nine different districts. They are going to look at you as one entity.”
The building of casinos can lead to job loss, an increase in bankruptcies, divorce, increased crime and family disruption, and revenue declines for local businesses. Income levels generally do not rise with new casino development, which means the new jobs are low-paying jobs. There is also a higher arrest rate seen amongst pathological and problem gamblers.
However, the gaming consultants said there are also some pros to the building of casinos, among them increased tax revenues, additional jobs including construction jobs and local contracts, a decreased unemployment rate and unemployment insurance payouts, local investor opportunities and increased revenue from hospitality and amusement.
“There are a lot of activities here at the casinos that the community can enjoy,” Albert told the council.
MGM Resorts International was chosen as the winner of the area’s gaming license over Penn National Gaming, owner of Rosecroft Raceway, and Bensalem, Pa.-based Greenwood Racing Inc.
The casino is scheduled to open in 2016 with 3,600 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, a concert theater, several celebrity chef-branded restaurants, a spa, luxury retail stores, a reflecting pool and other amenities. MGM National Harbor plans to employ about 4,000 people.