MI Gaming Board Says 15% Occupancy, No Smoking Or Poker At Detroit Casinos

Written By Matt Schoch on June 9, 2020
Detroit Casino Revenue

The heads of Detroit’s three commercial casinos said Monday morning that they are ready to proceed with reopening plans once given the go-ahead.

John Drake, of Greektown Casino-Hotel, David Tsai, of MGM Grand Detroit and Bruce Dall, of MotorCity Casino, took turns addressing the Michigan Gaming Control Board at a virtual meeting on Monday to allay concerns.

Later Monday, the board issued the minimum guidelines that Detroit’s commercial casinos must follow upon reopening, which included a 15% capacity, no smoking on casino floors and no poker rooms.

“I think we’re all waiting for the opportunity to see the doors reopen because it’s such an important part of the fabric inside the city of Detroit,” board chair Robert Anthony said in response to the casino executives.

The three Detroit casinos have been closed since March 16 and are under orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to remain closed.

Detroit casinos closed through June 12, for now

Last month, Whitmer issued a “Safe Start Plan” that extends through June 12.

However, the governor reserved course on some of those plans last week, allowing bars and restaurants statewide to open at 50% capacity on Monday. Casinos were explicitly prevented from opening Monday by last week’s order.

Meanwhile, tribal casinos operated by autonomous Native American tribes throughout the state have been reopening over the past several weeks.

In Wayland, Gun Lake Casino reopened on Monday, the eleventh of 23 tribal casinos now reopened statewide.

Ten of the other tribal casinos have announced reopening dates. Four Winds Casinos confirmed a June 15 reopening for their three locations.

Board member: Can smoking move outside in Detroit?

The top managers of Detroit’s three casinos addressed the gaming board with reopening plans.

Board member Barbara Smith wondered if this was an opportunity to turn the Detroit properties into no-smoking facilities temporarily.

For example, Tsai said MGM Grand Detroit plans to have an indoor area where customers will be permitted to smoke, even though it’s off the gaming floor.

Greektown Casino-Hotel

Drake, Greektown’s general manager, said the three Detroit casinos worked collaboratively to develop some of the local plans.

“We have taken a lot of time and planning for the return of our employees and customers,” Drake said. “Therefore, we have considerable measures that we put in place.”

The Greektown parent company Penn National Gaming has released general national guidelines for reopening.

MGM Grand Detroit

Tsai, president and COO of MGM Grand Detroit, said he attended an MGM reopening in Mississippi recently, noting that five of the company’s casinos have reopened with positive feedback from customers.

“We’ve been taking a really conservative approach to our health and safety protocols,” he said. “We’ve been working with medical experts that we’ve hired to develop all of our cleaning protocols that we have throughout the company.”

MGM Resorts released a “Seven-Point Safety Plan” for reopening with guidelines.

MotorCity Casino

Dall, the MotorCity president, said the casino’s reopening procedures fall into four buckets: sanitization and cleaning, screening, personal protection equipment and social distancing.

“We developed these plans way back in mid-April,” said Dall, adding table games dealers will have face shields. “I think they are comparatively, as we have seen 500 casinos open up, I think they are some of the most stringent out there.”

Last week, MotorCity released its “COVID-19 Safety Plan.”

Gaming board releases minimum guidelines

The Michigan Gaming Control Board on Monday issued minimum guidelines for reopening, including a limit of 15% of the legal capacity at each casino.

Other guidelines are:

  • Limited entrance points with temperature checks.
  • A ban on smoking on the casino floors.
  • No poker rooms.
  • Heightened cleaning protocols.
  • Social distancing requirements.

The board came up with the guidelines by collaborating with other states.

“In compiling these minimum guidelines, we considered CDC recommendations, Nevada Gaming Board guidelines and information from the National Indian Gaming Commission,” said Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director, in a news release.

“We required the casinos to propose reopening plans, and we consulted with the casino unions on the guidelines. We believe the guidelines will protect the public when it is safe to reopen the casinos.”

Kalm emphasized during the meeting that these weren’t orders for the three casinos, but only guidelines. He added the 15% capacity guideline could change after casinos reopen. The casinos’ plans already adhere to these guidelines.

Detroit casino revenue down 51.6%, so far

The board announced Monday that May was the second straight month of zero revenue from Detroit’s casinos.

Through May, Detroit casino aggregate revenue was down 51.6% to $299.2 million from $617.9 million in the same period last year.

State tax revenue from Detroit casinos was down $25.8 million, from $50 million in 2019 to $24.2 million this year.

The city of Detroit had a drop of $37.9 million in taxes and development agreements from the casinos this year. Through five months in 2019, $73.5 million was generated, compared with $35.6 million this year.

Board member Walker-Mills steps down

Michigan Gaming Control Board member Carla Walker-Miller stepped down recently. Anthony said her resignation was for personal reasons.

“She was a great addition to the board and she will be sorely missed,” Anthony said. “We really appreciated having her.”

Her term was to expire on Dec. 31. The governor appoints board members.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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