Long-awaited MGM National Harbor opens to large crowd

Some of the first to arrive at at the MGM National Harbor file into the casino. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
People went straight for the casino on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
People went straight for the casino on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Traffic getting into the MGM National Harbor was still stacked up at 4 a.m. Friday. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Traffic getting into the MGM National Harbor was still stacked up at 4 a.m. Friday. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The main lobby of the MGM National Harbor on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
The main lobby of the MGM National Harbor on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

String musicians played in the lobby of the MGM National Harbor opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
String musicians played in the lobby of the MGM National Harbor opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

(WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Traffic piles up outside MGM National Harbor in Prince George's County, Md. hours before the casino's public opening on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
At 9 p.m., the line to get into the parking garage of the MGM National Harbor was already long. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

At around midnight Friday, cars were still streaming in. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
At around midnight Friday, cars were still streaming into the MGM National Harbor. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Security dog Kate kept things safe at the opening night of the MGM National Harbor. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Security dog Kate kept things safe at the opening night of the MGM National Harbor. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Friday morning outside the MGM National Harbor after the grand opening Thursday, Dec. 8. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Friday morning outside the MGM National Harbor after the grand opening Thursday, Dec. 8. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The crowd appears to have thinned Friday morning, despite signs saying the venue is at capacity. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The crowd appears to have thinned Friday morning, despite signs saying the venue is at capacity. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

People are still on the go early Friday morning, after MGM Grand National Harbor opened its doors Thursday at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
People are still on the go early Friday morning, after MGM Grand National Harbor opened its doors Thursday at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Guests of MGM National Harbor enjoy the facilities the morning after its grand opening. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Guests of MGM National Harbor enjoy the facilities the morning after the Thursday grand opening. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Guests continue to trickle into the casino area of the MGM National Harbor following Thursday's grand opening at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Guests continue to trickle into the casino area of the MGM National Harbor following Thursday’s grand opening at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Two guests of the MGM National Harbor view the landscape from outdoors. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Two guests of the MGM National Harbor view the landscape from outdoors. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The sunrises over MGM National Harbor after the casino and resort's opening night. The resort remained at full capacity into the early morning hours after its 11 p.m. grand opening. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The sunrises over MGM National Harbor after the casino and resort’s opening night. The resort remained at full capacity into the early morning hours after its 11 p.m. grand opening on Thursday. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

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People went straight for the casino on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Traffic getting into the MGM National Harbor was still stacked up at 4 a.m. Friday. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The main lobby of the MGM National Harbor on opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
String musicians played in the lobby of the MGM National Harbor opening night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Traffic piles up outside MGM National Harbor in Prince George's County, Md. hours before the casino's public opening on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
At around midnight Friday, cars were still streaming in. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Security dog Kate kept things safe at the opening night of the MGM National Harbor. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Friday morning outside the MGM National Harbor after the grand opening Thursday, Dec. 8. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The crowd appears to have thinned Friday morning, despite signs saying the venue is at capacity. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
People are still on the go early Friday morning, after MGM Grand National Harbor opened its doors Thursday at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Guests of MGM National Harbor enjoy the facilities the morning after its grand opening. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Guests continue to trickle into the casino area of the MGM National Harbor following Thursday's grand opening at 11 p.m. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Two guests of the MGM National Harbor view the landscape from outdoors. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The sunrises over MGM National Harbor after the casino and resort's opening night. The resort remained at full capacity into the early morning hours after its 11 p.m. grand opening. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

WASHINGTON — Even with a late-night opening Thursday, the MGM National Harbor Casino and Resort attracted throngs of people, from government officials and celebrities to residents all over the D.C. area.

The opening was scheduled for 11 p.m., but the doors opened a half-hour early given the overflow crowd of people waiting to get in. By 11:15, the parking garages and casino were at capacity.

At 3:30 a.m. Friday, people were still only being let in as others left. By 7, space was opening up around the tables.

Visitors had a variety of reactions:

Fahim Shir, from Vienna, said it took two hours to get to the casino for the grand opening Thursday night.  He and a friend got there before the doors opened at 10:30 p.m. and stayed until the wee hours of the morning.

“It was beyond expectations, honestly,” he said. He says dealing with the cold and the crowds was worth it.  He and his friend ended up parking at the Tanger Outlets and walking to the casino.

Quan Johnson, from Woodbridge, said that he would come back to MGM National Harbor for dinner and a show, but not to gamble. “I think the place outside is nice and the hotel. But as far as the casino part, it’s pretty small.”

Jackie Montague, of Alexandria, visited the casino with her husband. “This is the best thing to happen on this side of town. We needed this,” she said. Montague was taken by all the gold and glitz of the new MGM, “It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve been to in many years.  It’s just amazing.”

“I’m really excited; I don’t have to drive to Baltimore anymore,” said Che Johnson, of Upper Marlboro.

For Temple Hills resident Roosevelt Littlejohn Jr., the late-night traffic wasn’t so daunting. “Traffic was fine; they had enough people out there showing you how to get in,” he said.

Gaithersburg resident Jamaa Hill called the casino beautiful and, while holding her bag, said, “It’s gonna be full of money by the time I leave.” Her plan of action? “I’m going to gamble safe.” She was heading to the blackjack table.

Dignitaries at the opening included Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and chefs José Andrés and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio.

People who had entered as part of the VIP party walked around and took in the sights, including Sarah Jessica Parker’s boutique, where the actress and businesswoman was in attendance. Music included an orchestra in the main lobby.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo, Kathy Stewart, Teta Alim and Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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