Detroit Casinos May Not Reopen For Months While Tribal Casino Re-Starts Next Week

The Detroit mayor says it depends on a treatment or vaccine

WWJ News
May 06, 2020 - 4:34 pm

(WWJ) Because of a nearly $350 million budget shortage, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan suspended anti-blight programs across the city, and delivered the grim news that entertainment — including Detroit's cash cow casinos — may not fully reopen for months.

“It costs us $600,000 a day, I haven’t complained about it a single time because the health of our community is more important than the revenue coming in,” the mayor said at a news conference Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at least one tribal casino in the Upper Peninsula will begin a phased reopening starting May 16, as it's not subject to governmental orders to stay closed. Island Resort and Casino earlier said it would be open May 6, but later announced that "due to unforeseen circumstances" it was pushing the reopening 10 days. The casino did not give a reason for the delay. 

In Detroit, Duggan said casinos have been working with the city’s chief medical advisor on what it would take to reopen the casinos, while watching what Las Vegas is doing. He said discussions involve safety protocols, like guests and employees wearing masks, having only a fraction of slot machines operating and restricting how many people can sit at a game table. 

That is, he said, until casinos can resume normal operations.

“Those conversations will occur in the coming weeks. I think we are a long way away — six months, maybe a year from the casinos operating the way we’re used to seeing them operate, but I do think it is possible,” Duggan said.

The most optimistic estimates say a vaccine could be developed by January, though others say that breakneck speed of development for something that usually takes 10 years is unlikely. There are promising treatments emerging for COVID-19, though none yet that seem to wipe it out of an infected person.

It's a hard blow, not only for gamblers, but because taxes and development fees brought in $184 million for Detroit last year, and $118 million for the state, and accounted for 20% of the city’s general fund.

With that loss and others, Detroit is able to avoid cutting police and fire only because the city has amassed a size able rainy day fund, Duggan said.

That fund has $107 million, $50 million of which will be used to offset budget cuts. The City Council also approved Tuesday $72 million in cuts to blight elimination spending, as well as trims in the workforce and transit for a total savings of $348 million.

As of Wednesday, the city of Detroit is reporting 9,562 cases and 1,128 deaths. 

Meanwhile Up North, Island Resort and Casino in Harris, which has been closed since March 21, announced it will reopen today its slot machines, carryout food service, some bars, bingo and retail sales, according to an announcement on Friday, May 1. On Friday, May 8, its golf courses will open. Its hotel plans to reopen on Wednesday, May 13, per MLive

Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders, casinos are supposed to stay shuttered until May 28. But the casinos Up North are owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community and - like all tribal casinos in the state - is not under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, MLive reports.