..the next time you go to the MGM National Harbor casino, your money won’t be the only thing you’ll be risking.
Sure, we all appreciate the taxes the MGM National Harbor casino is paying to help fund improvements to public education in Prince George’s County. Why wouldn’t we? But that money doesn’t give them the right or permission to do whatever they please, with reckless disregard for public safety.
There was the electrocution of a now “permanently and totally disabled” 6 year old Zynae Green. How did that happen? Apparently, because MGM may have pressured and/or paid an inspector to overlook shoddy construction. Let’s see what the FBI uncovers when its investigation is complete. And while they’re looking into the electrocution, there’s the matter of insufficiently cured concrete. Is there, in fact, an even larger public safety issue with the structural integrity of the casino building?
And now, MGM is asking the County to approve an exemption to Maryland state law that requires the MGM National Harbor casino to be smoke-free. More specifically, MGM wants to create a 2000+ SF “cigar lounge” inside the casino where people gambling and working there will subject to the cancer-causing effects of first and secondhand smoke. Is there no end to MGM’s presumption of special treatment? No limit to their expectation that making money takes precedent over the health of their customers and employees?
Everyone appreciates the taxes MGM pays, but paying taxes doesn’t give MGM carte blanche to be exempt from State law regardless of the impact on public health. Rush Baker is out. There is a new State’s Attorney, Aisha Braveboy, who has replaced Angela Alsobrooks who is now the new County Executive. They owe MGM nothing and the people of Prince George’s County everything.
As part of the approval process, the Prince George’s County Zoning Hearing Examiner’s office is holding a hearing to discuss the MGM application for an exemption to the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act. The hearing is currently scheduled for 9:30 AM on Wednesday, January 23 in Room 2027 which is on the second floor of the County office building located at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772. You can call the Zoning Hearing Examiner’s office at 301-952-3644 to confirm these details and for additional information.
As a result of this hearing, the Zoning Hearing Examiner will make a recommendation to the PG County Council. If you’re concerned about MGM’s request for an exemption from the Clean Indoor Air Act and would like to influence the outcome of the hearing, here are some of the things you can do…
Go to the hearing. Sure, it could be difficult and even costly for you to take off work or have someone take care of your kids, but do your best to show up. The Zoning Hearing Examiner and press will notice that you and other residents cared enough to come.
Call or email Angela Alsobrooks who is the new Prince George’s County Executive, Aisha Braveboy who is the new State’s Attorney and Brian Frosh, Maryland’s Attorney General, because the County doesn’t have the authority to override the State’s Clean Indoor Air Act. And you can call Maureen McNeil, the Zoning Hearing Examiner. Reaching out to your Council Member, State Delegate or Senator will also be helpful. Call or email them. Tell them what you think. You are not powerless. Hearing from you will have an effect.
At the very least, you can leave a comment at the end of this article. As always, you should feel free to express your opinion whatever it is. If you prefer a more private form of communication, email us at Info@LocalInitiatives.org.
At the top of the image above, you’ll see a reference to a Baltimore Sun article dated March 4, 2016, entitled “MGM casino bill would allow indoor smoking area.” (The quote at the bottom and image of the woman wearing a gas mask are our doing.) Note the date. The MGM casino didn’t open until December of 2016. The point is that the current effort by MGM is clearly not the first time they’ve tried to bypass the State’s Clean Indoor Air Act. It’s an important read. Basically, Prince George’s County Delegates introduced legislation having to do with the casino’s liquor licenses, but which included permission for a 2000 SF cigar lounge where gamblers would be allowed to smoke. Thanks to lobbying by The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and other anti-smoking advocates, language allowing the cigar lounge was pulled from the bill.
Almost 3 years later, they’re trying again. Give them credit for being persistent, but they are not entitled. They’re a casino. The people of Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland have given them a license to print money which they’re making by the tractor-trailer load. They should be thankful and respectful.
Not only does the County lack the authority to grant MGM the exemption, the precedent would be awful and would basically render the Indoor Clean Air Act meaningless as restaurants and bars in the County and elsewhere in Maryland demand equal treatment.
Does anyone think MGM is serious about going into the cigar lounge business? About selling cigars? No. Of course not. This is all about the selfish audacity and power of MGM money. It’s high time the Prince George’s County stood up to MGM and made it clear who’s in charge of the relationship between the county and the casino. While everyone appreciates the financial support for public education that gambling in Prince George’s County makes possible, under no circumstances do those taxes give the MGM National Harbor permission to do whatever it pleases.
Either the MGM National Harbor is going to be a responsible guest in Prince George’s County voluntarily or the new County government administration – and courts, if necessary – will have to make it happen on behalf of the people they are sworn to represent and protect.