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Gaming Guru

 

Gaming Helps Create a "Cool City"

15 September 2004

Casino gaming has become increasingly fashionable. More and more, television programs have a central focus on casinos and those who work in and visit them. Las Vegas has become the entertainment center for the stars with tabloid publications frequently detailing their exploits on the town. Poker has suddenly become one of the hottest topics of television shows with the World Series of Poker and Celebrity Poker both drawing record ratings for cable television and creating overnight stars of people like Chris Moneymaker.

As Las Vegas sustains its "hip" image, increasingly more and more states are following the Michigan model and authorizing casino style gaming to gain revenue. Pennsylvania recently legalized slots at tracks and in slot parlors, California has seen the largest explosion of casino growth of any state and has more on the horizon, and Illinois' Governor was recently quoted as saying he will approve additional gaming venues in that state as long as they meet certain criteria.

With expansion comes increased competition, yet Las Vegas has not only survived, it has thrived. The key to this success has been Las Vegas' ability to sustain the whole package. It has first rate convention facilities, an efficient and convenient airport, and upscale hotels that operate with a hospitality mindset that recognizes that improving things for tourists sometimes comes at the expense of local residents.

In her first State of the State address, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm stated a desire to foster and develop "cool cities" in the State of Michigan. She noted, correctly, that too often our young people with high tech knowledge are leaving the state to move west or east to other locations. She developed a grant program to provide funds for various groups to try to improve our towns and make them "cool cities." Her vision should be lauded. It is critically important to this state to take steps to modernize our cities. However, vision is sometimes not enough. As important as the vision, is the commitment to follow through to achieve the goal, to choose short-term inconvenience over long-term gains.

Seven years ago, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer outlined a very clear vision of how casino gaming could transform Detroit into a very attractive convention and tourist destination. He planned for three clustered casinos with hotels adjacent to improved parkland, retail shopping in the Ren Cen, and improved convention facilities. The vision was grand, it was very cool, and would have made Detroit the talk of the nation as a true comeback city for conventioneers. As we all know, this did not materialize for a wide variety of reasons. It makes no point to seek to blame anyone. Too often, Detroit and its suburban neighbors spend time backbiting and showboating, rather than truly seeking to get the job done.

With more and more states legalizing casino gambling, a key question for our leaders at the city and state levels is "what are we going to do to compete and stay ahead of the curve?" Conservatively, Detroit has enjoyed at least a five year head start on the competition giving it the ability to establish itself as the place to go for casino gambling in the Midwest. Is there a plan to capitalize on this advantage?

Significantly, the governmental leaders and executives in Canada seem to get it. Despite all of the hardship Casino Windsor has suffered over the past five years, plans were recently announced to upgrade and expand the facilities to include convention space.

In the meantime, Detroit and Oakland County are having a knock down, drag out fight over plans for Cobo Convention Center, and the newspapers are ridiculing money spent to upgrade the facility from a visitors' standpoint (on new artwork) as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

If the Governor, the state Legislature, the Mayor, the City Council, and the local county regional executives want to achieve the visions of a "cool city," all of these petty differences must be set aside. There are a lot of new and exciting things going on in Detroit. The museums, the nightlife, the new restaurants, the sports facilities, and casinos all offer the opportunity to really impress visitors. Now, what is needed is (1) a shared vision of how to tie these elements together and further improve the overall experience from a visitor's perspective; and (2) a commitment to seeing the vision through.

If, and it's a big if, our leaders can find a way to do this, then Detroit has the potential of becoming a lively and entertaining place to visit, live in, and work in, and sustaining the initial economic success of the casinos for years into the future.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com