MGM Launches Washington Office For Lobbying, Hires Former Reid Chief Counsel

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MGM Washington DC lobbying
MGM National Harbor is not the only place the gambling corporation is setting up full time in the Washington DC area.

MGM Resorts International recently purchased a new building to house a permanent government affairs office. It is the first major step in the company’s plan to expand its lobbying footprint on the federal level.

MGM names senior VP of governmental affairs

The new DC office will be run by Ayesha Khanna. Khanna is former chief counsel for Sen. Harry Reid.

Khanna has been a part of Reid’s team since 2011. In 2013 she was named one of the 25 most influential women in Washington under 35 by the National Journal.

Norman Ross will remain in place as the vice president of governmental affairs. He joined MGM in 2014 after 15 years serving as the Director of federal government affairs for The Coca-Cola Company.

Said John McManus, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary for MGM Resorts:

“Today’s announcement of our Washington, D.C. office and the continued development of our talented policy team is the first of many steps we aim to take to build our public affairs capabilities and strengthen our role as a strong corporate citizen on a wide range of key issues.”

New lobbying efforts the result of Reid’s retirement?

Reid, who retired this month, played an integral role in lobbying efforts for the gaming industry. As a result, a longtime, guaranteed voice for the casinos at the table is gone.

New offices like the one MGM just announced provides casinos with boots on the ground in the nation’s capital.

“We’ve had a gift in Harry Reid,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of government relations at Caesars, told the Washington Post. “Now we need to learn to be smart and fast on our own. All of us are acutely aware that the strong voice we always had representing the industry in Washington will be diminished.”

The gaming industry spent $37 million on lobbying efforts in 2015. That was a record high.

Casinos will continue to rely on the American Gambling Association (AGA) to lobby for the industry’s interests.

It is important to note the AGA stays out of the online gambling debate because casino owners are divided over the issue. So, the responsibility will fall on the companies themselves to foster relationships in Washington to push the federal online gambling issue.

National Harbor had great opening month

The new MGM National Harbor property opened in Maryland just outside of the DC area on Dec. 8.

In its first month of operation, National Harbor took in $42 million in revenue. That puts it in second place for the month behind Maryland Live!, which generated $48 million in revenue.

With the property quickly making an impact in the region, could the casino industry have similar success when the Trump administration begins?

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Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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