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What Detroit is Gaining is Las Vegas' Loss: Revenues at
 Detroit Casinos Up 4.1% in February, 2009

By Mary Francis Masson, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 11, 2009 - Greektown Casino increased its share of Detroit's gaming market in February -- as the three casinos reported that revenues were up more than 9% from January.

"We are attracting folks that play at other properties ... it says that players are interested in what we have here, and folks are playing more with us than they had been," said Amanda Totaro, an executive with the Fine Point Group, a Las Vegas consultant working with Greektown.

Greektown's market share went from 22.76% in January to 23.52% in February.

Greektown opened its 400-room hotel in February and since then has pushed a $99-room deal with $10 in free play at the casino. The buzz has helped the property, but probably also helped all three properties, said Randall A. Fine, managing director for the Fine Point Group.

"It wouldn't surprise me as we step up our game that our competitors would do so as well," said Fine. "A good casino operator isn't going to sit around and complain about the economy ... maybe all three Detroit casinos have adopted that attitude."

The Michigan Gaming Control Board reported that revenues at the Detroit casinos were up 4.1% in February from the same month in 2008. MGM Grand Detroit's numbers were up 5.17%, MotorCity's 4.37% and Greektown's 1.88% from February 2008.

All three properties reported gains from January. Revenues had been declining each month year-over-year since November.

Damian Kassab, chairman of the gaming board, said new visitors to downtown likely pushed those numbers higher. He said the recent dog show, Autorama and planners and visitors in advance of April's Final Four are boosting traffic at downtown venues.

"I was happily surprised ... but we have a lot of people running around downtown," he said. "That has a direct impact on numbers for casinos, hotels and restaurants."

What Detroit is gaining is Las Vegas' loss, said R. Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Schwer said revenues in Las Vegas were down 16.27% in January from the same month in 2008. That's evidence that gamblers aren't traveling as much.

"They are substituting home cooking for their entertainment ... They are not going to destination resorts," Schwer said.

Casinos in Missouri and Illinois, near St. Louis, have also reported increased revenues for February.

Darius Alvis, a 37-year-old from Ferndale, said he used to visit Detroit's casinos once every three months. Now he's at a casino -- usually Greektown -- twice a week, despite being unemployed.

Alvis said he's started with $50 and turned it into $500 to $800 playing poker. He's been living on unemployment since October when he was laid off from his job as a machinist at Tyrolit Wickman Inc., a manufacturer with a plant in Oak Park.

He has not been able to find work.

"I'm probably going to spend $50 on some form of entertainment anyhow, so why not take a chance to win some money?" Alvis asked.

Shannon Hancsak, 43, of Oxford, was also at Greektown on Tuesday and said she's always surprised at how many people are at the casinos.

"There's a lot of people at the casinos for as bad as the economy seems. Maybe they are all hoping for the big win," she said.

Contact MARY FRANCIS MASSON at 313-222-6159 or mmasson@freepress.com.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Detroit Free Press

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