Detroit casinos mean jobs, taxes

September 18, 2007 5:18 AM
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Gaming detractors love to warn decision makers that choosing to permit expanded gambling in their jurisdictions would generate more crime; cause blighted areas to deteriorate further and generally hurt the residents’ quality of life.

Now comes Detroit where eight years ago those same forewarnings were disregarded by the town fathers in order to approve three gaming licenses.

Within a very short time of the establishment of casinos operated by Greektown investors, Mandalay Bay Corp. and MGM Mirage Inc. (MGM), the city saw a decrease in its crime rate; revitalized neighborhoods, additional prosperity in other areas and an increase in new developments.

Among the first to admit he was wrong is Rev. Kevin M. Turman, the influential pastor of historic Second Baptist Church who like many others believed the casinos would bring additional problems for Detroit residents. He felt that those who already faced problems with the downsizing of the auto industry would be hard hit.

"I thought they set the wrong moral tone. I thought they were a magnet for crime. I thought they were economically counterproductive," he said.

But, after reviewing the impact of the casinos, he realized he was wrong. "The fact that the casinos are paying taxes on their income has helped the city at a time when it needed help," he said.

Casino operators say that the experience so far, with just temporary properties, is just the beginning. They expect an even brighter future.

Starting next month, the first of three luxury hotels will open as part of the three companies’ $1.5 billion investment in permanent facilities. Combined, the three will add 1,200 upscale rooms and suites to the downtown area, and feature more than 220 gaming tables and about 8,000 slots.

This, said a spokesman for the gaming industry, gives the three operations "the potential to attract even more visitors, becoming more of a resort-style destination."

During their eight years of operation, the casinos have added more than $1 billion to the city’s coffers and created some 7,000 jobs.