Report: Gaming Industry Has $6.3B Impact On Michigan Economy, Supports Almost 38,000 Jobs

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Two days before Detroit’s three commercial casinos will be allowed to reopen for the first time since March, the American Gaming Association released a report focusing on the gambling industry’s multi-billion dollar value to Michigan’s economy.

According to the latest installment of the AGA’s “Casinos and Communities” series, out Monday, Michigan’s 27 commercial and tribal casinos have an overall annual economic impact worth $6.3 billion. That number includes $1.3 billion in state and local taxes and tribal revenue sharing agreements, as well as $2.1 billion in wages for 37,911 jobs supported by the industry — from blackjack dealers to casino suppliers to restaurants whose proximity to casino locations brings in business.

“The casinos helped the city of Detroit in many ways,” said Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the report. “Not just by revenue, but by entertainment, by tourism.”

And this week’s return of the casino business in Detroit — even at the 15% limited capacity mandated by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order — will be more than welcome in a city that Mayor Mike Duggan estimated has lost roughly $600,000 in tax revenue for each day Detroit’s casinos have been forced to remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Casino business crucial to Detroit recovery

The AGA report gave special focus to the role of Detroit’s three commercial casinos — MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino — in the city’s revitalized economy after filing for bankruptcy in 2013.

“It was the most desperate big city in the United States,” recalled Michael O’Callaghan, former chief operating officer of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Center, in the report. “Now [Detroit] is out of bankruptcy and getting healthier, and the casinos contributed to that.”

For local businesses, contracts with the casinos served as a lifeline during the economy’s downturn and provided opportunities to expand during better financial times. “When the bubble burst a number of years ago, the amount of construction in the area dried up,” said Ray Formosa, owner of Brooks Lumber, a hardware and lumber retailer in Corktown. “Thank goodness for the casinos, because they were consistent.”

State Rep. Tyrone Carter noted the opportunities for direct employment that the gaming industry has brought to his district. Employing 7,600 people, Detroit’s casinos provide “different levels of jobs from entry-level, janitorial, cashier to pit bosses to managers to working for a company that is not only local, but maybe even national and international,” Carter said in the report.

More than 90% of those 7,600 workers were laid off or furloughed during the coronavirus shutdown, but Detroit’s three casinos have announced intentions to hire back roughly half of those employees this week, with plans to continue re-staffing if and when the state government allows them to operate at greater than 15% capacity.

Tribal casinos as regional economic hubs

With a case study of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, the AGA report highlighted the benefits of Michigan’s 24 tribal casinos for the sovereign tribal nations that operate them and their surrounding communities.

Calhoun County Commissioner Derek King observed the impact of casino revenue on the Pine Creek Indian Reservation, the sovereign land of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi tribe, which has owned and operated FireKeepers since 2009. “They have built some of the most state-of-the-art facilities, buildings, and health departments,” King said in the report, with the gaming industry helping “to take care of and enable its members.”

In the report, Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury noted how local residents have gained from the city’s closeness to FireKeepers: “Certainly, it does employ people in our area and there are many people that live in the city of Battle Creek that are employed by FireKeepers.

“It brings people from all over the state and beyond the state of Michigan,” Fleury added. “They go to the casino, but they also come into downtown Battle Creek, they eat at local restaurants.”

Revenue sharing with the casino has also contributed to Battle Creek’s investments in infrastructure, parks, and education programs. “I can’t think of an area that they haven’t touched with the money that they share with the community,” Fleury said.

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Rafe Bartholomew

Rafe has worked as an editor and writer at Harper's Magazine, Grantland, Eater, and The Athletic. He is a co-author of the New York Times Bestselling book Basketball: A Love Story and the author of two other books, Pacific Rims and Two and Two.

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