April 19, 2017
By Aaron Stanley
The American Gaming Association kicked off the latest phase of its Get to Know Gaming initiative Wednesday morning at a location that bears a complete opposite resemblance to the standard casino floor.
The group kicked off a national effort to highlight the gaming industry’s impacts on small business partners by paying a visit to a food distribution warehouse in suburban Maryland outside Washington, DC that has become a key player in MGM National Harbor’s supply chain.
Eastern Food Services, owned by Korean immigrants, is one of the largest independent minority-owned food distributors in the capital region, supplying food to the Prince George’s County school district and other customers between Washington and Baltimore.
Last year, Eastern Foods reached out to MGM with hopes of building a partnership with its forthcoming National Harbor property, ultimately obtaining the contract to provide MLife branded water bottles to the property.
Chris Umstot, a sales manager for Eastern Foods, explained that having MGM National Harbor as a customer has proven invaluable. He ships at least one truck per week of water bottles to the property and estimates that, at the current run rate, the relationship will generate $1 million in new sales annually for the company.
The event was the first stop on a nationwide tour the AGA will undertake in the coming year to help promote the impacts that casinos have on local businesses. In a new report released this week, the group found that the nexus of casinos and small businesses supports 350,000 jobs, produces $52 billion in revenues and generates $7 billion in tax revenues.
Importantly, the report – produced by Spectrum Gaming Group – finds that as casino companies seek to uphold their image as sound corporate citizens, they are sourcing more of their products locally and viewing these local supply chains as a vital component of their business model.
“When many people think of the casino industry, they obviously think of the shiny lights and the entertainment of MGM National Harbor and properties in Maryland and around the country.
But it’s businesses like [Eastern Food Services], and it’s facilities like this that are really running [the casino business] and are the foundation of this business,” said Geoff Freeman, the AGA’s chief executive.
The AGA plans on doing 15-20 similar events around the country in different gaming jurisdictions in the coming year, though the specifics have yet to be rolled out.
MGM emphasized that forging partnerships with local businesses like Eastern Foods remains one of its core values, particularly within Prince George’s County where National Harbor is located.
“This isn’t about the winners on the casino floor, this is about the winners in the community and if we can’t build out the capacity of more small businesses like Eastern Food Services, then we aren’t doing our job,” said Malik Husser, director of communications at MGM National Harbor.
Local government and business representatives, including Congressman Anthony Brown, also took part in the event. Brown iterated that the economic benefits reaped by local employers from the presence of MGM could not be understated.
“I want to pledge my commitment to the industry and to MGM, and I do that on behalf of the literally hundreds of small businesses in the 4th congressional district that participate in the activities and the prosperity associated with gaming,” said Brown.