MGM Resorts Int'l (MGM - Get Report) can expect its $1.4 billion National Harbor project, which opens tomorrow in suburban Maryland, to add $170 million to its EBITDA in 2017, an analyst told TheStreet.
Gambling was legalized in Maryland in 2010, and since 2012, annual gaming revenue has increased nearly 200% to $1.1 billion in 2015 from $378 million, according to the University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research. Maryland awarded MGM with the state's sixth gambling license in 2013.
"Maryland's gaming market is still growing. It is one of the more lucrative states and can still absorb more supply," Union Gaming analyst John DeCree said.
The new 23-acre casino resort in Oxon Hill, MD in suburban Washington, DC is part of the reason the company is the best gaming play in the sector, according to David Katz of Tesley Advisory Group.
"MGM is the top pick, it has a lot of arrows pointing in the right direction. Opening a new casino in the DC market will help give it the boost in needs to distinguish itself from competitors," Katz told TheStreet.
MGM CEO Jim Murren spoke highly of MGM National Harbor during the company's third quarter earnings call last month, saying "We're so pumped about it. I don't know if we've ever been more excited. It's the only thing that everyone can agree on, that National Harbor is going to be a big success."
Despite the company's high hopes for the project, MGM National Harbor is entering a market that already has some dominant players. Maryland Live, about 30 minutes from National Harbor, controls 56.7% of the market, while the Horseshoe in Baltimore, about 45 minutes from the National Harbor, controls another 27.2% of the market.
Maryland Live is owned by privately held commercial real estate development company The Cornish Cos., while the Horseshoe is a joint venture between Caesars Entertainment (CZR - Get Report) and privately held Jack Entertainment.
Still, DeCree sees MGM National Harbor attracting a more sophisticated customer.
"MGM targets a different out of state market with its resort casinos, Maryland doesn't really have another casino on par with National Harbor," DeCree said. MGM National Harbor is placing heavy emphasis on its performance venue, 300 room hotel and conference hall.
While there are also casinos to the west in West Virginia, MGM National Harbor won't face competition from nearby Virginia. In 2015, Virginia rejected legislation that would have allowed casino gaming in certain parts of the state. The state's Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted 10-4 to kill the bill.
Murren told analysts that he feels good about the trajectory of gaming because that side of the business is event driven. He estimated that MGM will have five times the number of events in 2017 than they had in 2016.
"Right now it looks to be smooth sailing for MGM. Las Vegas visitation continues to rise and we think National Harbor provides a clear path to growth in 2017," Decree said.
MGM Resorts shares were up 0.24% to $29.74 in morning trading Wednesday and have risen nearly 31% year to date.