Casinos motoring toward permanent status in Detroit

Mar 26, 2002 2:58 AM


Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he hopes to announce the agreement this Tuesday. Should the arrangement falter, the administration has asked the City Council to approve a 30-day extension of the existing agreements for casinos at temporary sites. The agreements expire March 31.

“We’re keeping our options open,” said Bob Berg, a spokesman for the mayor.

The three casinos, MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino and Greektown, are each required to build 800 rooms under current agreement but would add another 400 later if demands warrant.

There is also speculation that the MGM Grand might buy the vacant State Plaza building off the Lodge at Howard Street. Each casino is free to find its own permanent home but must stay within the downtown area bounded by the Lodge freeway, I-75 and I-375.

Greektown, 90 percent owned by Sault St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, took in $279 million last year. MGM Grand, owned by MGM Grand Mirage and local investors, took in $366 million in 2001.

MotorCity Casino, which is 53.5 percent owned by Mandalay Resorts, took in $361 million last year. According to a Detroit Free Press report, there will be no casino located on the riverfront.

Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said she would need strong proof that 800 rooms per hotel is too many for the market to back, but agreed to a lesser number.

“It’s impossible for Detroit’s economy to create casino destinations that will bring tourist dollars into the economy from more than 150 miles away,” Cockrel said. “New money has a greater impact than just re-circulating dollars from this region. That’s an important goal to reach.”

Study urges gaming

Wisconsin would see thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars added to state. Revenues if gambling compacts with American Indian tribes were expanded, according to a sponsored study.

The United Tribes of Wisconsin, which funded the study, told the Associated Press that lengthening the state’s compact with Indians from five to 30 years, adding new games and increasing betting limits could add $50 million and 24,500 jobs.

“You can’t really expect anyone to build first-class facilities if they’re going to be gone in five years,” said Michael Evans, founder and former president of Chase Econometrics, which conducted the study. “The compact is too short.”

Wisconsin’s 11 tribes run 17 casinos around the state under separate five-year compacts. The first of the compacts expires next February. Gov. Scott McCallum is on record as opposing building new casinos and adding games.


Downs revenues up

Delta Downs pulled in $7.9 million in the first 16 days since adding slot machines, ­­according to Louisiana state police report.

The Boyd Gaming property, located in Vinton, reported an attendance of 134,015 at the ­­casino. Boyd bought Delta Downs from Shawn Scott for $130 million. Boyd spent another $35 million to add 1,498 slots at the race track.

“We are very encouraged about our results at Delta Downs and look forward to building on that success,” said Rob Stillwell, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Delta Downs.

The crowd so far exceeded Boyd Gaming’s expectations that regulators closed the casino for about 16 hours last month because of accounting and money-handling problems.

Despite Boyd’s presence at Dover Downs, the four riverboat casinos in nearby Lake Charles saw their February winnings rise to $30.7 million, an increase of more than 12 percent from January totals.

Delta Downs is the closest casino to the Texas border.


Casino/stadium planned

If the Indians have their way, the new Arizona Cardinals stadium in Phoenix will be part of a casino and resort development.

According to a Sporting News report, Gila River has emerged from the long-running stadium sweepstakes race as one of the two finalists. Mesa is the other finalist chosen by the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority, which is building the $350 million stadium.

The bidding war will be decided either March 28 or 29, but momentum has reportedly swung to the Gila River site. Still, supporters of Gila River are concerned over stereotypes involved from Indian ownership and gaming.

“We’ve had to overcome antiquated views of tribal ways and government during the process,” said Gila River attorney Steve Heeley. “And, we’ve had to go extra steps to prove to the public that we are doing business ethically.”

The stadium will be financed by a $331 million plan approved by Maricopa County in November 2000.  The Cardinals and the Fiesta Bowl would pay part of the cost of building a 73,000-seat domed stadium with a partially retractable roof and a slide-in grass field.


Rhode Island tribe turns silent

Narragansett Indian Chief Matthew Thomas said he would not comment about alleged efforts to put his tribe in business with a favored Las Vegas casino company.

“We do not want to fall victim to winning the battle of public opinion, only to lose the war of politics,” Thomas said in a statement that sought to smooth the way for the tribe to make its case to the Rhode Island House Finance Committee during a critical hearing next Tuesday night in Providence.

Thomas alleges that Cranston City Council president Joseph DeLorenzo and others told him the casino would have a “green light” if the tribe chose Harrah’s Entertainment as its partner.

DeLorenzo denied making that statement, but confirmed making overtures to the Narragansetts late last year on Harrah’s behalf and being present for at least one of their meetings.

Okies eyeing Niagara

Representatives of an Oklahoma Indian tribe are considering the establishment of a casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Seneca Indians have had discussions with members of Gov. George Pataki’s administration to bring their own casinos to the Falls, Buffalo and a third undermined site.

The tribe is interested in settling a $247.9 million land-claim settlement with the state in return for a casino in Niagara Falls and somewhere in the Finger Lakes region.