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Greektown Casino Moves Forward

6 September 2000

Yesterday, the Michigan Gaming Control Board concluded the evidentiary portion of Greektown Casino, L.L.C.'s public investigative hearing, one of the final legal hurdles toward casino licensing. The Board issued a Certificate of Suitability to Greektown Casino, L.L.C. to operate by a 4 - 1 vote, with Board Member Paula Blanchard voting against the issuance of the Certificate. Greektown Casino, L.L.C. has announced that the casino will hold a grand opening reception on November 10, 2000. Prior to the grand opening, the casino facilities and the plans for operation will be inspected by Board staff to assure compliance with all applicable rules and statutes. If the casino is deemed to be ready to open, the Board will meet a final time to actually issue the casino operator's license.

The licensure and opening of the Greektown Casino, L.L.C. is the end of a long and painful road for the investors involved, and for the community of Detroit. Along the way, some of the key proponents of casino gambling (Ted Gatzaros and Jim Papas) divested, and are no longer a part of this new industry. Their leadership and vision will surely be missed, but yet they have built a sound foundation for the Greektown Casino, L.L.C. to be a very successful casino, a good employer, and a contributing part of this community.

With the opening of the Greektown Casino, L.L.C., 2,400 new employees will be working in downtown Detroit. The temporary casino in the heart of the Greektown District will breathe new life into that area. The Greektown facility is not a stand-alone casino resort. Instead, it is integrated into the surrounding Greektown area to encourage patrons to go to restaurants and facilities outside of the casino. This is one of its strengths. The biggest remaining question mark is the issue of parking.

Speaking at the hearing, Greektown Casino's executive, William Paulos, noted, "We were asked by City officials not to build a fortress. We were encouraged to integrate into the surrounding community, so that people will park and walk through the area to get to the casino. The same approach is working with Comerica Park, and we expect some of the same spillover benefits to the community."

Speaking for the Board, Chairman Thomas Denomme noted that the City has "signed off" on the parking situation but that any lack of parking could hurt Greektown competitively. Mr. Paulos, however, expressed optimism that the plans the casino has will satisfy the needs.

Greektown Casino, L.L.C. has assembled a formidable and talented management team for its casino operation. Michael Mecca, the COO, previously worked on the construction of the Mandalay Bay Resort. He left shortly before that mega resort opened to accept the challenge of building and opening a casino in this exciting new market. There is still a lot that needs to be accomplished in the coming months. Employees need to be hired, trained, and there is the lingering issue of unionization. Additionally, as observed by Gaming Control Board Chairman Thomas Denomme at a recent hearing, the majority ownership by a sovereign tribe will be a "unique experiment."

As long as everyone realizes that there will be a few bumps in the road, the Greektown Casino experiment will be successful. The key to success will be its strong management team, coupled with a true understanding of the local community it is serving. Greektown Casino's biggest advantage will be its local flavor. Hopefully, its management will keep this in mind, and embrace the Detroit culture, as its operation moves forward.

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