Casino revenue plummets for Detroit casinos

By William Brown Updated
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Revenue from Detroit’s three casinos has dropped nearly 60 per cent this year as gambling halls’ months long closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The Sentinel-Standard reports that MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino have struggled for revenue during the state-mandated closures.

MGM Grand’s revenue dropped 40 per cent year-to-date last month, falling to $126.5 million from $315.1 million in 2019 during that same period.

MotorCity has experienced a similar hit, down 41 per cent to $70.1 million from $169.8 million.

More than half of the first six months of this year was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that period brought a total of $299.2 million in revenues for the three casinos.

That’s a 59.3 per cent drop from $735.4 million collected during the first half of 2019.

In turn, the city is seeing less casino wagering taxes this year.

Detroit collected $35.6 million through the first half of this year, compared to $87.5 million in the first six months of last year.

According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the state receives 8.1 per cent of a casino’s winnings, and the city of Detroit receives 10.9 per cent.

Both the state and city have completely lost that tax submission, given all three casinos received $0 in April, May and June combined.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of casinos, along with gyms, bars and theatres in March in an effort to slow the rate of virus infection by limiting person-to-person contact and promoting social distancing, which are measures difficult to follow in casinos.

The casinos are currently waiting for Whitmer to give them the green light for reopening, but the governor’s recent lockdown extension and rising case numbers may defer reopenings even longer.

Despite Detroit’s three casinos remaining closed, tribal casinos have no legal obligation to follow state law and are regulated by their own gaming commissions.

The state’s 23 tribal casinos began reopening in late May, having shut down voluntarily in March.

Sports betting comes to Illinois and Michigan

Legal sports betting has arrived in both Illinois and Michigan this week, but only if bettors are willing to hoof it on down to a local casino.

Calvin Ayre reported in March that the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced that Detroit’s three commercial casinos “expect to be authorised” to conduct onsite sports betting starting at 1pm on Wednesday, March 11.

The MGCB has no authority over the state’s tribal casinos, each of which will announce their own betting plans in due course.

The MGCB plans to give the commercial casinos their final approval on Tuesday following each operator’s presentations at a public meeting.

The MGCB has already issued provisional licences to the companies who are providing the casinos with betting kiosks.

MGM Resorts’ Grand Detroit had already installed two rows of betting kiosks just outside the Moneyline Sports Lounge that the property opened last October.

MGM said last Friday that it will invite “local sports legends” to the sportsbook’s official launch on Wednesday afternoon.

Michigan’s sports betting legislation also allows for mobile wagering, as well as online casino and poker, but the technical requirements for approving digital betting require more vetting than land-based wagers, so betting on the go won’t likely come to Michigan until 2021.

Illinois plans to beat Michigan to the punch by taking its first legal wagers on Monday, assuming the Illinois Gaming Board doesn’t throw up any late obstacles.

The BetRivers Sportsbook at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines – which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc and managed by Rush Street Gaming – will hold a ceremonial opening at 10am while the sportbook’s doors will officially open at noon.

Former Chicago Blackhawks player and current hockey broadcaster Eddie Olczyk will be on hand to place the state’s first legal wager at one of five betting windows, or at one of the book’s 30 automated betting kiosks if Eddie feels a little coronavirus paranoia coming on.

Six Illinois operators have expressed interest in launching sports betting operations but the others have yet to declare when they might charge out the starting gate.

Illinois allowed online betting when it passed its betting bill last June, and BetRivers said its site and mobile app would launch later this year.

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