Greektown Casino Moves Forward

Just after a few months of settlements, on Tuesday Мay 7th, the Michigan Gaming Control Board approved the sale of interest held by Tod and Marina Gaztaros and Dimitri and Viola Papanas in the Greektown Casino, L.L.C. for $275 million over the next 15 years. The sale of the couple interest gives the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indian an effective 90 percent interest in the casino for the time being. However, in two years, Detroiters will be offered an opportunity to acquire an additional 10 percent.

More importantly, the approval of the transfer of interests means that licensure of the Greektown Casino can move forward. The Gaming Control Board began the public investigative hearing on the “suitability” of the remaining parties involved Tuesday afternoon. In an effort to move things forward as promptly as possible, the Board continued the hearing last night. The Board is scheduled to meet on September 5th to consider a “Proposal for Decision” that will be prepared by the Hearing Officer who has presided over the hearings. Assuming all goes well, a Certificate of Suitability could be issued on September 5th. Thereafter, the casino will make its final preparations, will hire, train and obtain licenses for its employees, and will likely open in mid to late October.

All of this is good news for the City of Detroit, which is desperately in need of the added gaming tax revenue that Detroit’s third casino will bring. Additionally, the opening will bring over 2,500 new jobs and will finally allow the Greektown Community to enjoy the influx of casino patrons as part of its nightlife experience. The Greektown Casino, L.L.C. has made a real effort to integrate into the surrounding community virtually weaving a neighborhood restaurant into its facility and by adopting themes familiar to Greektown patrons over the years.

One of the remaining concerns expressed by Gaming Control Board Chairman Thomas Denomme at Tuesday’s hearing was the issue of parking. The Board has asked for a presentation on this subject to be given on September 5th. Although parking in the immediate vicinity of the interim Greektown Casino facility is somewhat scarce, the casino enjoys the unique benefit of virtually having a People Mover stop at its doorstep. For years, there has been a strong community desire to see the People Mover become more popular. With Greektown Casino’s opening, there is sure to be an enormous increase in the number of riders.

The Greektown Casino opening will take the Detroit/Windsor gaming market to a new level. For the past year, since the opening of the MGM Grand Detroit Casino on July 29, 1999, Detroit has been primarily a locals market. As time goes on, and the novelty of casino gaming wears off, the casinos will increasingly have to attract from further away. In the past year, some of my out-state friends have noted that they have not yet visited the Detroit casinos. What I repeatedly have heard them say is that they figured they would wait until all three were open and then would make a weekend of it. With the close proximity of the Athenium Hotel, Greektown Casino is uniquely situated to attract these casino patrons. Thus, look for the overall size of the casino market to grow substantially with the Greektown opening, and look for the Greektown Casino to be a success.