Michigan tribal casinos begin to reopen, Detroit casinos remain closed

Posted at 12:27 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 12:27:29-04

(WXYZ) — Every day Detroit casinos remain closed due to COVID-19, the city is losing $600,000 in tax revenue.

It's an area of concern Mayor Duggan has spoken about in recent weeks, and the figure was again confirmed Wednesday by city spokesperson John Roach.

“The city is taking a major hit to its revenues, and less than a decade out of bankruptcy it has to keep a very close eye on making sure revenues and expenditures are in balance," said Eric Lupher with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Tribal casinos in Michigan are starting to slowly re-open in other parts of the state. Until recently, despite not falling under state regulation, they abided by Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home order.

Odawa Casino in Mackinaw City opened it’s doors last Friday, and Odawa Petoskey will open this Friday, with safety regulations in place.

There will be limited seating, and guests will need to wear face coverings, according the casino's website. Temperatures will also be taken prior to entry.

Odawa did not respond Wednesday to several requests for comment on its decision to re-open.

Four other tribe casinos could also re-open as soon as Friday; including the Bay Mills Indian Community and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

Frank Cloutier, the public relations director for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, said their casino will open Friday to members of the players club program along with tribal members, and will be open to the general public starting Monday morning.

Cloutier said the decision to open is based on the financial realities and needs of their community, along with their legal right to do so, he told Action News.Patrons will be provided face masks if they'd like to wear them, but masks will not be required, Cloutier said.

Patrons will have their temperatures checked at the door; chips and other equipment will be thoroughly sanitized, he said.

Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek is expected to reopen Monday at 11 a.m.

Tribe casinos are regulated by their own gaming commissions and federal law, so the extended stay-at-home doesn’t apply to them, unlike Detroit casinos which have been shuttered since mid-March.

According to Michigan's Gaming Control Board, Detroit casinos' year-to-date revenue is down nearly 40 percent through April.

Casinos wagering taxes make up 16 percent of the the city's general fund, but that's not the only economic driver gaming brings to the Motor City.

“There’s also the income tax revenue of all the casino workers. To get the card dealers and other employees back on the job and earning income tax payable to the city," Lupher said.

“Of course I’m concerned about the financial end of the deal," said a dealer at MGM, who's been off the job since mid-March when the casinos temporary closed.

She asked we not use her name, however Action News has confirmed her employment at the casino.

She first spoke out in March, wanting the casinos closed down for public health reasons. Wednesday, she said her stance hasn't changed.

“I just cannot see how in a casino, you’re going to be able to do safe distancing," she said.

According to the Gaming Control Board, safety protocols will be made public before casinos re-open. When exactly that will be, is still up in the air.

"Gov. Whitmer’s order last week (E.O. 2020-100) to extend closure of the casinos is evidence of the concern for protecting the public," said Gaming Control Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean via email on Wednesday.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.