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R&R’s D.C. division to oversee MGM National Harbor marketing

“What happens in D.C., stays in D.C.,” probably won’t fly.

Las Vegas-based marketing firm R&R Partners will play a role in launching the $1.3 billion MGM National Harbor development, a resort complex under construction across the Potomac River from the nation’s capitol.

The contract to oversee brand marketing efforts for the project, which will be operated by Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International, was awarded to R&R Resources+. The firm is headed by Steven Horsford, who represented Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District before losing his re-election bid last fall. R&R Partners is a minority owner of R&R Resources+, which earned the contract through its status as an independently owned Minority Business Enterprise.

R&R Resources+ will focus on diversity marketing, corporate social responsibility and workforce strategy for the hotel-casino, which is part of the National Harbor development in Prince George’s County, Md. The MGM project is expected to open late next year.

For politically-connected R&R Partners, best known for its work with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and developers of the well-known Las Vegas slogan, “What happens here, stays here,” MGM National Harbor provides the firm with a showpiece project outside its home market.

“It’s going to take a sustained marketing effort that’s customized to the area,” said R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis. “It’s a great project for Steven and his team as well as a being a great opportunity for MGM.”

Vassiliadis said a goal of the R&R’s Capitol Hill office is to find clients outside the traditional political spectrum.

“There is a great story here with this project and how it is being viewed within the Maryland community,” Vassiliadis said.

MGM National Harbor is attached to the 150-acre National Harbor development, a mixed-used retail, dining, residential and hotel complex built by the Peterson Cos. of Fairfax, Va. The site once housed a rock and gravel quarry along the Potomac River.

More than 5,000 people work in National Harbor, and the location draws 8 million to 10 million annual visitors. The 2,000-room Gaylord National has nearly 500,000 square feet of meeting space. The development has a water taxi service that ferries visitors to and from the National Mall in Washington; historic Alexandria, Va.; Georgetown; and Washington Nationals baseball games.

Analysts have touted the earnings potential of MGM National Harbor, which sits on a quarter-mile-long, 23-acre site along Interstate 95. It will house a 125,000 square-foot casino, a 24-story, 308-room hotel tower, retail, restaurants, a spa and convention and meeting space.

Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets gaming analyst Steve Wieczynski said the resort has the potential to be one of the top-producing regional gaming facilities in the United States. He predicted MGM National Harbor will produce annual cash flow of $175 million to $250 million.

The region’s gaming environment is competitive. The northern Virginia area is filled with potentially lucrative gaming customers. Those players travel to Atlantic City, or head to casinos in West Virginia (Penn National Gaming’s Charlestown Races), or Baltimore (Cordish Cos.’ Maryland Live! and Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s Horseshoe Casino Baltimore).

That’s one reason MGM National President Lorenzo Creighton wanted a firm with “strong expertise in the hospitality and gaming industries, as well as deep market knowledge and extensive relationships in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, all of which are assets to our business.”

Before getting elected to Congress in 2012, Horsford, a Democrat, spent 10 years as the CEO of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, Nevada largest workforce agency, which trained thousands for workers for hotel-casino industry.

Horseford said MGM’s well-established commitment to a diverse workforce will be well-received in Prince George’s County.

“Throughout my career, I have supported this philosophy, that diversity and equal opportunity are critical to a thriving marketplace,” Horsford said. “It’s gratifying to find myself back where it all started.”

Horsford began his career with R&R, working for the company’s government affairs team in Las Vegas and Carson City.

MGM National Harbor is expected to open by the end of 2016.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find @howardstutz on Twitter.

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