After nearly five months of being forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit’s three commercial casinos are back in business.
Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order allowing the casinos to reopen on Aug. 5 with limited capacity and restrictions.
MotorCity Casino Hotel and Greektown Casino-Hotel opened its doors to the public on Wednesday, while MGM Grand Detroit will do so on Friday morning.
All three have varied timetables for reopening their respective hotels.
New restrictions mean challenges for Detroit casinos
All three properties must limit operations to 15% capacity according to the executive order. It’s a challenge considering tribal casinos within the state are not as restrictive.
MGM Grand Detroit’s President and Chief Operating Officer David Tsai stated that the 15% capacity rule means that roughly 1,800 people are allowed on the casino floor at any one time.
Along with limited occupancy, all three Detroit casinos also have the following restrictions:
- Masks required
- Temperature checks at the door
- No smoking on the gaming floor
- Customers must be sitting to drink
- No poker
- No self-serve buffets
- Fewer restaurant options
- No valet service
Even with the new challenges, the opening of Detroit casinos also brings back a number of jobs.
“Most importantly, this decision allows us to initially recall up to 50% of our staff, providing critical employment and health benefit,” Bruce Dall, president of MotorCity Casino Hotel said.
The casino was able to extend health benefits through the end of the month for employees not yet called back.
Patrons not hesitant to return to Detroit’s casinos
Regular casino patrons didn’t waste any time in returning to Detroit’s gaming floors on Wednesday. Lines formed out the door at MotorCity Casino Hotel prior to its 10 a.m. opening.
While MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino-Hotel opened their doors on Wednesday to the general public, MGM Grand Detroit opted for a different opening.
MGM brought in some of its select top-tier customers in its loyalty program for the first two days of operation. Matt Buckley, senior vice president of marketing and operations for MGM Grand Detroit, told The Detroit News:
“We wanted our best customers to get the first taste of what the new normal is and there are so many new safety protocols it’s definitely a different experience. We wanted our team members to get used to it too before we have the masses come in and overwhelm them.”
Public admission begins at MGM on Friday.
Sportsbooks back in play in Detroit
Along with the opening of the three commercial casinos, all three sportsbooks will also resume activity.
Greektown offers The Sportsbook at Greektown Casino-Hotel. MGM has the BetMGM Sports Lounge. Motor City Casino has The FanDuel Sportsbook, which will reopen on Friday at 11 a.m.
All three sportsbooks opened briefly in March before the government-ordered shutdown.
In just six days of operation before being forced to close, those casinos generated over $105,000 in adjusted gross receipts.
Online sports betting will be operational at the Detroit casinos once it launches in late 2020-early 2021.
Financial impact of COVID-19 being felt
The closing for over four months has created a lot of financial losses for the three commercial casinos in Detroit.
The year-to-date combined revenue for 2020 is down over 59% through June compared to where it was in 2019, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Last year, that number was $735.4 million. This year it had dropped to $299.2 million.
The loss of tax revenue is also impacting the city. Detroit’s Chief Financial Officer David P. Massaron released a statement on Wednesday addressing how the reopening and restrictions will impact revenue numbers.
“In our budget, we assumed we would be receiving $3 million per month in early months as the casinos reopened. At this point it is unclear that revenues will be at that level.”
According to The Detroit News, the city of Detroit received about $600,000 per day in taxes from the three commercial casinos.