|By Matt Helms, Detroit Free
PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 15, 2011--Greektown Casino-Hotel is about to become a tougher competitor among Detroit's three casinos, its new CEO said Tuesday after winning approval from state regulators to take charge at the city's third-place gaming hall.
"There are some pretty exciting things that will bring Greektown into the now and make it more relevant to the competition and Detroit in general," Michael Puggi said just after the Michigan Gaming Control Board cleared him to become CEO at a casino that's aiming for stability and renewal following its 2008 bankruptcy.
Puggi said Greektown will undergo major upgrades, including interior remodeling, improved dining offerings and a new marketing campaign to burnish its image.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show, for example, that the casino plans to spend $18 million to modernize its Opa/Center and Apollo bars this year and possibly its patio overlooking Monroe Street.
Puggi acknowledged Greektown is coming out of a tough spot.
"It's had its challenges," he said. "Obviously, with my appointment, we provide some consistency, some direction going forward, and I think that the staff is going to gravitate toward that. Greektown's positioned very well to really move forward."
Puggi's challenges are to stabilize the casino more than a year after it came out of bankruptcy and to fend off competition from a growing number of planned and potential casinos in Michigan and Ohio. They include a new casino that could open in Toledo in mid-2012.
Greektown was the last of the Detroit casinos to open and the last to complete its permanent facility and 400-room hotel. Greektown's reputation took a hit when it filed for bankruptcy under more than $800 million in debt, and the casino boosted player comps and offered heavy discounts on hotel stays and buffets to entice and keep customers.
Detroit's casinos also are gearing up for a fight against Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to raise the city's casino tax by 3% to help with the city's budget crisis. The casinos say they can't afford the higher taxes because they borrowed heavily to build their permanent facilities.
Greektown, with 2,600 slots and 67 table games, has about 2,200 employees and serves an average of 17,200 patrons daily.
It reported a narrowed quarterly loss of $8.5 million on nearly $84 million in revenue as of March 31, compared with a nearly $11-million loss on $86 million in revenue in the same quarter in 2010.
Puggi, a 30-year casino veteran, told members of the gaming board that he started out in 1979 as a slots attendant and repairman and worked his way up through operations and management, working for companies including MGM Resorts International and Herbst Gaming. He said he has been living at the Greektown hotel and plans to soon look for an apartment in the Detroit area.
Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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