Detroit is a 2,000 mile drive from Las Vegas, but it's an interesting market of only three casinos (plus Casino Windsor across the river in Canada) with revenues of $1.3 Billion in 2006. MGM Grand $490 Million, MotorCity Casino $469 Million and Greektown $345 Million. The three commercial casinos are moving into their next phase. The casinos were authorized in the mid-1990's as a source of tax revenue in struggling Detroit. Many operators presented proposals, including Steve Wynn. The three selected were MGM Grand, Mandalalay Resort Group and the Sault Ste Marie Chippewa tribe of Michigan. The three selected companies were required to have local partners, but in effect, the local partners had little power. They did, however, make a lot of money from the very successful casinos. The law permitted the casinos to operate in temporary or interim facilities while they planned and built permanent casinos with hotels. Like many political projects, hotel requirements changed and ultimately were watered down to 400 rooms each. Detroit's former mayor had visions of the casinos being together on the Detroit River, but there was so much opposition that each company went its own way in separate locations. Two of the three casino hotels will open by the end of this year.
More on Detroit's progress and the status of the projects after the jump.
MGM Grand opened its interim casino in 1999 in a former IRS processing center building on the edge of downtown.
From the beginning, MGM Grand Detroit has been the revenue leader and most successful casino, adding more to MGM Mirage's bottom line than some of its Las Vegas properties. Mandalay's MotorCity Casino opened in an historic building, Wagner Baking Company, about three miles from downtown in a depressed area which intimidated some suburban customers. Greektown opened in an old 19th century trapper's building in downtown.
MGM Grand Detroit will be the first to open its new facility, probably in November, which is going up two blocks from the current casino. Both the interim casino and the new one will be faux art deco which MGM seems to like so much. MGM's website shows that the rooms, spa and restaurants will be a significant addition to downtown. However, some of the comments on skyscraper.com aren't too complimentary, likening it to a typical office building.
MotorCity Casino was sold to Marian Ilitch, one of its local partners, after MGM Mirage acquired Mandalay. Casino operators are limited by law to only one casino in Detroit, so MGM was forced to sell MotorCity. The Ilitch family has been very beneficial to Detroit, and they have invested many millions into the city. Mike Ilitch, Marian's husband, owns the Detroit Tigers and Redwings. They also own Little Caesars Pizza. Since professional team owners aren't allowed to own casinos, MotorCity makes it very clear that Mike Ilitch has no involvement. In my opinion, Marian is the brains of the family, and thus far she has done an excellent job with MotorCity Casino The Detroit Free Press has a preview of the expanded facility, including some photos. While MGM did a good job in building a first class interim casino, MotorCity devoted more time and money to reflect Detroit's automotive heritage in its interim space. Since MotorCity is merely expanding at the same location, they kept their design detail and built upon it.
Greektown has constantly limped along behind the other two. It is also lagging in its construction of the permanent facility which will not open until the end of 2008.
As soon as both MGM Detroit and MotorCity open their new facilities, I will make a trip home to check them out...even if it will be winter up there.
Some links to information on Detroit:
A Safe Bet New MotorCity Will Impress