Friday, October 26, 2007
MGCB reports Detroit's casinos had worst month of the year in September; Michigan received nearly $1 million less
In August, revenues fell $1.59 million over July. September revenues were down $2.8 million over July when MotorCity Casino's newly expanded gaming floor (opened the first week of June) seemed to be producing at its peak.
And it's been reported this week that the opening of the casino's newly added 17-floor hotel will be delayed for a month.
It's likely MotorCity Casino's revenues will drop again for October given the property had locked its doors to patrons during a dispute with labor and that the casino's #1 competitor, MGM Grand Detroit, opened the doors to a brand new $800 million casino and hotel property in early October.
MotorCity delays opening of hotel expansion up to 4 weeks
By Jonathan Eppley and Daniel Duggan
MotorCity Casino announced Wednesday that it will delay the opening of its hotel expansion.
The opening, originally scheduled for Nov. 1, is to be delayed up to four weeks.
Between labor talks, a brief state government shut-down and delays with the shipment of couches, chairs and other hotel-room goods, the opening needed to be put off, said Rhonda Cohen, COO of Motor City Casino Hotel.
“We don’t want to open half-way,” she said. “When we open, we’re going to knock everyone out. For that, everything needs to be 100 percent.”
Reservations can be made on the Web site for as early as Nov. 28, but Jennifer Kulczycki, media and community relations manager said that is not the scheduled opening date for the hotel. Guests with prior reservations will be notified of the opening delay.
Bay Mills primary results
Parker leads bid to retain Bay Mills president post
BAY MILLS - Yet another horse-race between Jeff Parker and John Lufkins over the tribal president's job is in the wind after the pair finished first and second in the Bay Mills Tribe's primary, held Tuesday.
Parker, the incumbent, appeared to hold the advantage with tribal voters as he finished with 199 votes to Lufkins' 140 in a distant second-place finish. The two will face off once again for the tribe's top job in the general election Nov. 7.
In the same president race, Andrew LeBlanc Dr. placed third with 44 votes, followed by three other also-rans, Roberta Lyons, Sherri Schofield and Kurt Perron with a single vote each. Only the top two in the primary qualify for a spot on the general election ballot.
In the run for tribal treasurer, Michael Willis held a comfortable advantage over Dwight “Bucko” Teeple, 171-116 after the primary ballots were counted Tuesday. Clifford “Pete” Shaw placed a strong third with 97 votes and Kalvin Perron, Anthony Teeple and Tim Kinney Jr. brought up the rear with a single vote each.
In the tightest race on Tuesday, Kurt Perron outpolled Greg Parker 117-95 to fill out the general election ballot for secretary. Richard LeBlanc finished just out of the money with 92 votes, followed by three other candidates well down in the count. Jennifer Touchtone collected 48 votes, Simon Jahnke pulled in 34 votes and Robin Teeple had one.
In another crowded race for the final seat on the tribal council, Alexander Easton nosed out Ken Perron 136-114, though both candidates will be on the Nov. 7 ballot for councilperson. Five other candidates did not make the ballot cut for councilperson: Diane Teeple had a strong showing with 74 votes; Robin Bedell was well back and tied with Joshua Parish at 22 votes each and Daniel Teeple polled 16 votes. Angela Johnson had a single vote for the councilperson position.
In the Bay Mills Indian Community's governmental structure, the tribal council is made up of president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and councilperson.
In the only other contested race in Tuesday's primary, Corrine Cameron held a comfortable 186-100 advantage over Shelly Deuman for chief tribal judge. Both will face off again in the general election. Eliminated from the race by a slim two votes was Abigail Parish at 98 and Julie Timmer at one.
Three other Bay Mills tribal posts will be decided in the Nov. 7 general election. Terry Carrick and Angela Johnson were the only two candidates for tribal vice-president and face each other next month. Similarly, Paula Carrick faces Ruby Hatfield in the run for appellate judge and three candidates will vie for four available seats on the Bay Mills conservation committee. Dan Tadgerson, Tony LeBlanc and Brian Haskall are all on the ballot for the conservation committee and all are assured a seat on that board.
It was not immediately clear how the fourth available conservation seat will be determined.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Aquarian has been a significant donor to Mayor Lawrence Dale's political committee.
The City of Barstow faces a $300,000 fine from the regional water board for allegedly spilling more than 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage near the Mojave River in May 2006 in the Soap Mine Road area...
The Barstow wastewater facility is owned by the city, but operated by Aquarion Operating Services Company. United Water, Inc., recently purchased Aquarion and did not own the company at the time of the Barstow spill... (Full Story)
Plain Dealer Reporter
MotorCity Casino's new $275 million hotel won't open next week in Detroit as planned.
The sold-out opening of the 400-room luxury hotel, scheduled for Nov. 1, is being pushed back until later in the month. A new date has not been set, said spokeswoman Jennifer Kulczycki, but the resort's Web site is taking reservations starting Wednesday, Nov. 28.
The 17-story hotel is still awaiting the delivery of furniture, room fixtures and accessories, according to Kulczycki, who said the resort would use the extra time to train employees.
"You only get one chance to make a first impression," Kulczycki said. And MotorCity wants to get it right.
The casino and the resort's several restaurants have been open during the hotel construction and will remain open. Staff are rescheduling guests with reservations for opening weekend, which was sold out, and beyond.
When it opens, MotorCity will become the city's second casino hotel. MGM Grand Detroit opened its glitzy 400-room resort earlier this month; Greektown is scheduled to open its hotel next year.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
MotorCity Casino hotel opening delayed
Susan R. Pollack / The Detroit News
MotorCity Casino's new hotel will not open to guests next week after all.
The Nov. 1 scheduled opening, which officials announced in mid-July, has been delayed -- possibly by more than three weeks.
The first night for which reservations are being taken on the casino's Web site is now Nov. 28, nearly a week after Thanksgiving. Just yesterday, the posted date was Nov. 6.
Though MotorCity officials would not pinpoint a new opening date, Jennifer Kulczycki, a casino spokeswoman, confirmed today that the MotorCity hotel would not open on schedule.
"We are not going to be opening on Nov. 1, but we do not have a solid new date," she said.
Kulczycki blamed the delay on problems getting delivery of "soft goods," such as furniture, fixtures and other hotel furnishings.
"We're also using that time to make sure our training is complete and up-to-speed to make sure we have the best possible guest experience."
Room rates will start at $299.
MotorCity executives made the decision to delay the hotel's opening in a meeting Tuesday.
Unlike the new MGM Grand Detroit casino hotel, which opened in one 24-hour period earlier this month, MotorCity is rolling out various segments of its new hotel, restaurants, nightclub, spa and other amenities in phases. Portions of the gaming floor already have been renovated and open to the public since June.
You can reach Susan R. Pollack at (313) 222-2665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Haselhuhn Joins Ilitch Holdings as Director of Communications
DETROIT/PRNewswire/ -- The appointment of Jennifer Haselhuhn as director of communications for Ilitch Holdings, Inc., was announced today by Karen Cullen, vice president of corporate communications.
"Jennifer brings more than 13 years of communications practice to Ilitch Holdings," said Cullen. "She has a wide variety of experience that will help us meet our communications goals internally and externally as we continue to grow our organization."
Previously, Haselhuhn was a communications director at Casey Communications, a Detroit-area public relations firm. There she serviced a variety of automotive and non-profit clients while also overseeing daily operations of the agency.
Before working at Casey Communications, Haselhuhn was the manager of communications at GMAC Financial Services. Her main responsibilities included managing the company's charitable contributions and events. As such, she implemented a strategic and standard process for giving and helped streamline event participation, particularly for GMAC's significant involvement with Habitat for Humanity.
Prior to that, Haselhuhn was a financial communications integrator at General Motors Corp., where she was responsible for driving a better understanding of financial performance and business goals and objectives internally. Her responsibilities also included speechwriting for executive members of the finance staff.
She also spent more than six years at Delphi Corp., serving in a variety of communications roles with increasing responsibility. Prior to leaving Delphi, she was the speechwriter for the company's vice chairman and responsible for creating and managing the execution of a communications plan to help transform the corporation into a lean enterprise.
Haselhuhn received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Michigan University. A Michigan native, she now resides in Orion Township with her husband, Paul, and two-month-old daughter, Hadley. She is a published writer of various magazine articles and poetry. Her other hobbies include trail running and adventure racing.
Ilitch Holdings, Inc., based in Detroit, is an Ilitch-owned company that provides professional and technical services to other businesses owned by Michael and/or Marian Ilitch. Other Ilitch-owned companies in the food, sports and entertainment industries inlude: Little Caesar Enterprises, Blue Line Foodservice Dstribution, Champion Foods, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, and Uptown Entertainment. Total revenues for the Ilitch-owned businesses in 2006 totaled $1.6 billion.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By Jonathan Eppley
Workers at MotorCity Casino ratified a new four-year contract on Monday.
Members of the Detroit Casino Council, made up of four unions, voted in favor of the labor contract that is to provide pay increases and protect employee health care. About 73 percent of the voters approved the contract.
The contract is to include a $1,000 up-front bonus and 4 percent pay increases over the next four years for all casino employees.
Approximately 2,000 members make up the casino workers’ council, which includes members from the UAW, Unite/HERE, Operating Engineers and Teamsters unions. The four unions represent dealers, cashiers, valets, cooks, servers and other types of workers.
Included in the contract is health care coverage to be maintained with no increase in premiums employees pay into the plan. However, new hires are to pay a co-share premium.
Also outlined in the new agreement are improvements in dental coverage, employer contributions to employee 401(k) accounts and additional funds for tuition assistance.
“This is a step forward for our members, our families and the gaming industry in Detroit,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles in a statement.
“Detroit casinos are growing, with more than $1 billion in new investment in our city. Good-paying union jobs will be a key part of the expanded gaming industry, along with the highest possible standards of customer service,” Settles said.
Contract negotiations are ongoing at MGM Grand Detroit Casino L.L.C. and Greektown Casino L.L.C.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Click charts below for additional detail on each of the three entities at the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site opensecrets.org:
Monday, October 22, 2007
By MIKE CONNELL
The deadline for public comments on the proposed $433 million expansion of the Blue Water Bridge Plaza has been extended to Dec. 10. Here's a look at some of the issues in a question-and-answer format:
Question: If Homeland Security is behind the plaza for safety reasons, then how can a casino be approved directly next to the bridge? That would seem to be contradictory.
Answer: In August 2002, just a month before the plaza study began, Gov. John Engler signed off on a deal with the Bay Mills Indian Community. The tribe gave up its claim to 110 acres at Charlotte Beach on the St. Mary River in exchange for 15 acres at the Edison Inn in Port Huron. The casino cannot be moved elsewhere in Port Huron without Gov. Jennifer Granholm's approval.
Architectural drawing for the casino-hotel show it rising high above the bridge. Suites on the upper floors, as well as a rooftop dining room, would look down on the bridge. Presumably, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is well aware of these plans. No objections have been raised publicly.
The Wrong Track
The odds of the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s building a casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack are long indeed. A tribal casino has to be on tribal land, and the Shinnecocks have no land in Queens. It also has to be run by a federally recognized tribe, which the Shinnecocks are not; their application for tribal status has not yet been approved. Although New York State has regarded the Shinnecocks as a bona fide tribe for generations, and a federal judge ruled in 2005 that the tribe deserved federal recognition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is sticking to its own incredibly poky timetable for determining tribal status. Its decision on the Shinnecocks is not expected until at least 2014.
That is a long time to wait, and a long time to endure the games of brinkmanship and wheeler-dealing that have been played since the Shinnecocks first caught the casino bug several years ago. Their latest plan has an air of grandiose fantasy about it — revving up a dumpy racetrack with more than 10,000 slot machines, 350 gaming tables, 22,000 permanent jobs and $2 billion in revenue, about $400 million of it going to New York State. The fact that this putative gold mine would be in New York City, and not on Long Island’s East End, is a critical part of the deal: give us an Aqueduct casino, the tribe said, and we will abandon plans to build a casino on 79 of our acres in Hampton Bays, where local opposition to the plan is fierce and deep.
Let’s be clear: There should be no casino in New York City or the Hamptons, no matter who runs it. (Other companies are bidding for the Aqueduct gambling concession; the Shinnecocks’ plan dwarfs the rest.) This page has long opposed the state’s addiction to easy revenue plucked from gamblers’ pockets. The state should not be expanding gambling at its racetracks — not with roulette wheels, blackjack and poker tables, and not with video lottery terminals, the euphemistically named slot machines that are a gambler’s version of crack cocaine. There should be no casino deal with the Shinnecocks, no matter how large and tempting the promised kickbacks to state coffers.
Economic development is a separate issue; no one can argue against prosperity for the Shinnecock tribe, whose members have long struggled against poverty, drug abuse and limited opportunity. The tribe may find it hard to resist dreams of another Foxwoods or Atlantic City, and infuriating that its battle for dignity and self-determination is taking place against the backdrop of the East End, site of some of the more obscene extremes of wealth in America’s second Gilded Age.
But gambling is an illegitimate route to wealth, particularly for the government of a tribe or a state. It strews too many losers by the roadside, and is fraught with hidden costs. The Shinnecocks should give up their long, divisive, and potentially fruitless wait for that one big score, and turn instead to more sustainable, less damaging means of development.
Joel J. Smith / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- After nearly 10 years of investigating Greektown businessman Ted Gatzaros, the Michigan Gaming Control Board today awarded him partial ownership in a Detroit casino.
By a unanimous vote, the board approved Gatzaros' application to become a 1 percent owner in Greektown Casino. Before the vote, board members said they could find no reason to reject the request.
Gatzaros left the board meeting smiling but declined to comment.
Gatzaros and his partner Jim Pappas were instrumental in pushing casino gambling in Detroit in the 1990s. After voters approved casino gambling in a statewide referendum, Detroit awarded the pair one of three casino licenses.
Following an investigation, however, the Gaming Board indicated a license to the pair would not be approved. Gatzaros and Pappas ultimately ended up selling their interest to the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Under that sale agreement, the Tribe promised to sell a 4 percent interest in the casino and split the money between Gatzaros and Pappas. However, the agreement did not include a timetable for the sale.
With the board's decision today, Gatzaros has agreed instead to take 1 percent ownership in the casino.
Pappas was not a party to the license application approved today.
Gaming Board investigators raised a red flag with the board several years ago because Gatzaros had tax problems; they have since been resolved. Robert Young, an attorney representing Gatzaros, said that his client has never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor and received his last traffic ticket 30 years ago. He said the Gaming Board has talked to virtually everybody who has known Gatzaros in five states and two countries -- Greece and Argentina -- but found nothing wrong.
You can reach Joel J. Smith at (313) 222-2556 or email@example.com .
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