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Riverfront Site for the Permanent Casinos Offers Great Promise

28 June 2000

Reshaping the image of a city is never an easy task. Often, the little experiences linger in the minds of tourists and business visitors to a city. Who can think of San Francisco without picturing the San Francisco Bay and the quaint trolley cars running up and down the hills or Chicago without picturing the Miracle Mile and waterfront museums and the aquarium? For these reasons, like it or not, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer's plan for casinos in the east Rivertown area make a lot of sense.

When out-of-town visitors think of Detroit now, they typically picture a very urban place that is the center of a lot of business activity. In recent years, through the efforts and risk taking of many, new images have begun to emerge. Many of the performers at the Fox Theatre have walked away singing the praises of this beautifully restored venue. Similarly, the new Comerica Park is giving visitors the sense that Detroit is on a comeback, with new life taking shape. In the coming two years the City will boost a new dome stadium, which will be home to the Detroit Lions. The City will also be the new home of Compuware's $800 million world headquarters. Compuware's new office will be a high tech complex located in Detroit's business district. In addition, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport is adding a new state-of-the-art terminal that will add 65 new gates.

The Detroit casinos are yet another element. As can already be seen by the two temporary casinos, they will attract visitors from near and far. Without the casinos, many of these visitors would not have any reason to come to downtown Detroit. Each of these casino customers has his or her own circle of friends. They will leave with an image of the City shaped by what they see and will talk about their experience to their friends. The friends may or may not have an interest in casino gambling, but will still get their new impression based on what they hear. Right now, based on the temporaries, their impressions are limited. With the permanent casinos and their hotel facilities, a terrific opportunity will be presented to make a lasting impression. Imagine talk of a beautiful river front area with wide open parkland to stroll along within minutes from your hotel, yet still within walking distance to the urban attractions, sports stadium, and business and commerce areas. This is the vision the Mayor has outlined, the vision which will rapidly become a reality.

There has been a lot of controversy over the East Riverfront area. Many have argued that the area should be kept in the holding pattern it has been in for years. Personally, I cannot conceive of how anyone can believe that the ugliness of the current cement factories should be preserved. The argument that there may be a "better use" for the area than casinos is a true fantasy. If there was such a use, and developers who were willing to take on the project of refurbishing the area, it would have been started years ago.

Last week, the Rivertown East Alliance came up several hundred signatures short of the necessary number to have a ballot issue on the question of whether casinos should be kept out of the area. Additionally, the attorney for landowners in the area and City representatives both acknowledged that they are "close" to finalizing the land acquisition for the permanent casinos. Clearing these major hurdles will mean rapid development. The casino operators will be anxious to get full-scale resorts built to attract even more customers.

In the end, Detroit will have a beautiful new image in the minds of people who visit here. It will not be the same images that Las Vegas and Atlantic City have. Instead, it will be a deeper and richer image of which casino gambling is just a small part. The image of Detroit for this millennium will be of an historic town, with a rich and diverse cultural history. It will be known as a fabulous sports town, a musical town that is the home of many different, unique forms of music talent, a place with a wide variety of ethnic cuisine, a wonderful theatre and entertainment center, and a terrific place to get business done with many major movers and shakers. The permanent casinos will provide fabulous resort experiences complete with the first class hotel space that is so desperately needed for the convention business in our town. All of these visitors will take with them the visual sites and sounds of the City regardless of whether they gamble. The riverfront will leave a positive lasting impression that no other location could deliver. As a result the entire City will be a winner in the eyes of the world.

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