Detroit miscue could shut down local casinos

Feb 12, 2002 4:12 AM


A federal judge has put the gaming industry in Detroit on hold.

The Michigan metropolis was ruled to have granted casino licenses unconstitutionally, throwing those operations into limbo.

Judge Robert Holmes Bell will make a ruling on the future of Detroit’s three casinos after reviewing the briefs, which are due Feb. 22.

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Chippewa Indians filed the lawsuit in 1999 before the casinos were opened. The suit claimed that Detroit’s ordinance was discriminatory.

The tribe does not want to shutdown Detroit’s three casinos (Greektown, MotorCity, MGM Grand Detroit), but wants to see people have a chance to bid on operating a casino.

The appeals court agreed, saying Detroit “basically sought to end the high-stakes competition for two of the three Detroit casino licenses before it really began.”

Supreme gamble

The Tiguas have taken their case to save Speaking Rock Âí­Casino all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court may be the last stand for the Tiguas, who are trying to prevent their casino from being closed by the state of Texas. 

“It appears to be the first time a state has been able to close an Indian-run casino,” said John Harte, general counsel for the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C.

Speaking Rock, which opened in 1996, offers slot machines and poker tables that help generate $60 million a year for the once destitute tribe of 1,250 Tiguas. A federal appeals court had ordered Speaking Rock to close by Feb. 11.

Borgata sets board

An Atlantic City Caesars veteran is among three executives named vice presidents at Borgata, the $1 billion, 2,010-room casino hotel under construction in the Marina District, according to local newspaper reports.

Paul Tjoumakaris, a 22-year Caesars employee who was most recently senior vice president of slot operations, takes the same job at Borgata.

Tjoumakaris, who left Caesars last fall, also oversaw the 1995 opening of the Caesars-managed racetrack slots at Dover Downs in Delaware and consulted on company casino openings in other jurisdictions.

Peter Finamore will be Borgata’s vice president of hospitality and will oversee development of the resort’s hotel and 35,000-square-foot spa. He previously worked 14 years with luxury hotelier Peninsula Group, with whom he was general manager at five different hotels.

Victor Tiffany, vice president of food and beverage, will oversee development of Borgata’s restaurants, bars and lounges. Most recently Tiffany was director of food and beverage at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida.

Penn backs slots

Penn National Gaming Inc. is putting its money on casinos and racetrack slot machines as a strong bet for growth.

The company’s earnings for 2001 more than doubled from the previous year and revenue grew 78 percent for $519 million.

“I think it is fair to say that we are gravitating from a pari-mutuel / gaming company to more of a gaming company or a casino company,” said Kevin DeSanctis, Penn National’s chief operating officer. “The racing division of our business is still important to us.”

The company bought Mississippi’s Casino Magic last year and also owns a riverboat casino in Baton Rouge, La.

Cal tribes concerned

California tribal gaming is most concerned about a bill in the State Legislature that would allow publicly traded corporations to purchase privately run card rooms.

The Indians maintain that gaming is a governmental right that should be protected from corporate legislation.

The bill has already passed the assembly and is listed as inactive in the Senate, a status that could change. Donald Trump and his partnership with Twenty-Nine Palms tribe and his Atlantic City Casino Resorts is one example cited as far as the Indians seeing corporations enter into the gaming picture.

Arizona mulls slots

The state of Arizona is dealing with legislation that would allow horse and dog racetracks to run video slot machines to draw new gamblers.

Large racetracks would automatically become the biggest casinos in the state, with more than double the current slot machine capacity of any Indian gaming facility.

“The people of Arizona have been clear that they don’t want gaming expanded throughout the state,” said David LaSarte, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. “Trying to turn racetracks into casinos is holding us hostage to a special interest.