Image: Slot machines at the MotorCity Casino in Detroit
Carlos Osorio  /  AP file
New slot machines are seen at the MotorCity Casino in Detroit. The city is hoping to position itself as a true gambling-based destination for tourists. The city's three casinos are spending $1.5 billion to build sleek new hotels, expand their facilities, and inject some glitz into the gritty Motown landscape.
updated 8/13/2007 7:45:42 PM ET 2007-08-13T23:45:42

Detroit is already the nation's fifth largest gambling market, according to 2006 statistics from the American Gaming Association. Now the city is hoping to position itself as a true gambling-based destination for tourists. The city's three casinos — Greektown, MotorCity, and the MGM Grand Detroit — are spending $1.5 billion to build sleek new hotels, expand their facilities, and inject some glitz into the gritty Motown landscape.

Until now, the casinos have mostly attracted day-trippers and coach tours from Ontario, outstate Michigan and neighboring states. The new hotels, with 1,200 luxury rooms and thousands of square feet of convention space, will enable them to market to well-heeled gamers willing to spend several days gambling and being entertained, said Frank Fantini, publisher of the electronic Gaming Morning Report.

"The casinos will have no problems filling up their rooms," Fantini said.

But "the fact they're only building 400 hotel rooms each is some indication of their assessment of the size of the drive-in tourist market," said Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.

All three Detroit casinos opened in temporary facilities in 1999 and 2000. Casino Windsor across the river in Ontario, Canada, opened an interim facility in 1994 and settled into its current building in 1998.

MGM Grand's new $765 million complex includes a full-service resort spa and a 17-story hotel with electronic concierges in each room. Celebrity chefs Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina have signed on to open restaurants in the new facility. You can gamble there now; the hotel is scheduled to open this fall.

Greektown Casino is spending $475 million to expand its existing facility, located in an ethnic district of the same name. A 20-story hotel opens next year.

Out on downtown's fringes, MotorCity Casino is spending $275 million on a 17-story hotel, opening this fall, with amenities such as marble bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and climate-customized rooms for repeat guests. It opened the first phase of its gaming floor expansion in June.

Casino Windsor is spending another $380 million ($400 million Canadian) to construct a 22-story hotel and remake itself as Caesars Windsor.

Officials with Travel Michigan and the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau say they're using the casinos and hotels as part of a bigger effort to market the city. Television ads in the Cleveland market include images of gambling, including one that calls Detroit "a real city."

Casino analyst Jake Miklojcik, president of Michigan Consultants, said the new facilities will help the city better compete for the gambling dollar in other states and within Michigan, which also has 18 Indian casinos. Between 20 percent and 30 percent of people with Players Club cards in Detroit hail from out of state, he said.

Casino officials also are working to lure convention business to their spacious new digs. "Not so much the gigantic conventions, but the Michigan-based associations — the optometrists, the gravediggers, whatever," Miklojcik said. "Those used to go to Detroit 25 to 30 years ago. Now they typically don't."

Tourism officials say they hope the casinos will help persuade leisure travelers to check the city out — people like Don Lucy, a Lee, Mass., resident who visited Detroit for the first time to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Tigers at Comerica Park. The retired teacher said he planned to return to Greektown later to hit the slots.

Friends balked when he told them he was visiting Detroit, and he worried as he drove past smokestacks and grimy industrial landscapes. "Once you get in the city central, it's beautiful, very nice," Lucy said. "I'd like to come back out here again. I like Detroit. I never thought I'd say that."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Inventions & Motown

loading photos...
  1. Art work

    The sculpture "Transcending," located in Hart Plaza, is dedicated to working men and women. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'And Still We Rise'

    An exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History entitled "And Still We Rise" recreates a slave auction. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A big hand for the Brown Bomber

    The Joe Louis fist sculpture in the heart of downtown Detroit during a Labor Day parade. Commissioned in 1987 with a $350,000 grant from Sports Illustrated magazine, the 24-foot bronze monument was created by sculptor Robert Graham and came as a gift to the city as a tribute to Detroit's great boxing hero. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Motown Museum

    A woman walks past the Motown Historical Museum on West Grand Boulevard. Berry Gordy lived upstairs and operated what became known as the Motown Record Corporation downstairs, which he christened "Hitsville U.S.A." (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tiger town

    A view of the Detroit skyline seen from the Detroit Tigers' home, Comerica Park. (Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Renaissance Center

    Detroit's elevated people mover moves past the Renaissance Center -- the most recognizable feature of the city skyline. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Cool zoo view

    Visitors to the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life Exhibit get an up close and personal view of a swimming seal. The 4.2 acre, $14.9 million exhibit is the largest polar bear exhibit in the world. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Urban escape

    Campus Martius Park is a centerpiece of the city's downtown revitalization efforts. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Wienermobile mania

    A 1952 version of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Oscar Mayer created the original Wienermobile in 1936 to transfer the company spokesperson from store to store. The original was a 13-foot-long metal hot dog on wheels with an open cockpit in the center and rear, so the hot-dogger could pop up. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rosa's way

    A tourist takes a picture of the Montgomery city bus Rosa Parks rode when she refused to yield her seat at the front of the bus to a white man, an event that touched off the Civil Rights movement. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Postcard perfect

    Detroit's skyline at dusk. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments