- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2012

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – MGM Resorts International struck an agreement on Friday to build a casino destination at the National Harbor waterfront complex near the nation’s capital, if lawmakers end up allowing the casino and table games like blackjack while also cutting the state’s high tax on gambling proceeds.

The proposed casino in suburban Maryland would include about 4,000 slot machines and about 200 table games with shopping, restaurants and a luxury hotel.

James Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM International, met with Gov. Martin O’Malley and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on Friday in Annapolis. Murren expressed enthusiasm for MGM to invest $600 million in the casino, combined with about another $200 million from the Peterson Companies. However, he underscored that the state’s “epically high” tax rate of 67 percent would have to be lowered to 52 percent.

Murren also said MGM would diligently consider the community when designing a casino.

“We’re not going to drop Las Vegas in National Harbor,” Murren told reporters after the meetings. “We’re going to do something that is sensitive to the local environment, the region.”

MGM operates Las Vegas resorts including the Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay.

Murren also estimated it would take at least two years to build the casino, which he said would produce at least 2,000 construction jobs. He also said about 4,000 permanent jobs would be created by the resort.

The agreement is contingent not only on the Maryland General Assembly passing legislation. Maryland voters also would have to approve it in a referendum.

O’Malley, a Democrat, described the meeting with MGM and Peterson officials and as a good one.

“They wanted to let me know how interested they are in doing business in our state,” O’Malley said. “They believe very firmly that the site at National Harbor can be a very, very attractive site and resort destination that will draw people from around the country.”

Murren said he believed about 75 percent of the casino’s business would come from people who do not reside in Maryland.

A work group convened by O’Malley is studying the potential for expanding gambling. O’Malley is planning to call a special session next month after lawmakers reach a consensus on how to do it.

“I certainly am planning that way,” O’Malley said Friday.

Currently, Maryland law allows slot machine casinos in five locations. Three casinos have opened, including one in Perryville, Berlin and Hanover. Two others, one in Baltimore and one in western Maryland’s Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort, have yet to be built.

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