Friday, November 30, 2007

Senator indicates "great deal of opposition" to Shinnecock proposal for Aqueduct

Blogger David M. Quintana at Lost in the Ozone... posts:

State Senator Serphin Maltese clarified that both he and other local elected officials, such as Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, are committed to have racing continue at Aqueduct.

The senator briefly commented on recent reports of a Shinnecock Indian group proposing to bring a casino to the Aqueduct site by saying that their offer wasn’t considered to be realistic.

“That’s not expected to happen,” he said. “Quite honestly, there was a great deal of opposition [to that]. Nobody knew what it would do. We were very apprehensive about the fact that other casinos [in] the surrounding areas have deteriorated [because of] their problems with prostitution, homelessness, vagrancy and vandalism.”

Maltese expressed his wish that a casino group in good financial standing step forth to offer their services to run Video Lottery Terminal operations.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ilitch represents his mother at opening of MotorCity Casino's hotel


Ilitch Holdings President and CEO Christopher Ilitch, left, welcomes Edwin Davis of Dearborn and his fiancée, Annette Kjelstad of Norway, to the grand opening of the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit.

Ilitch, a member of the MotorCity Casino management committee was apparently representing his mother Marian Ilitch who is said to own 100% of MotorCity Casino.

Marian Ilitch reportedly borrowed $1 billion in 2005 to: acquire the gambling hall from MGM Mirage/Mandalay Resort Group and other minor investors; to cover the costs of the $300 million casino expansion; and to begin repaying certain other of these debts. At the time MotorCity Casino was valued at $1 billion.

MotorCity Casino hotel opening delayed again


New MotorCity Casino Hotel welcomes its first guests


Today's opening of the MotorCity Casino Hotel went off as the rest of the project has: stylishly late.

The hotel’s opening at Grand River and the Lodge was delayed from Nov. 1 until today to allow for the final deliveries of assorted items throughout the building. Then the opening was delayed from its original 3 p.m. start time for almost an hour as dignitaries waited for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to arrive... (Original Story)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MotorCity Casino: The NHL's home away from home in Detroit?

Earlier this month, MotorCity Casino hosted a Texas Hold'em Tournament featuring the Detroit Red Wings. Those who entered the tournament could play beside Red Wings team members for a fee of $500. Originally promoted on the Red Wings' official NHL Web site, the details of the poker tournament were later pulled from the site.

And now, it appears MotorCity Casino has been marketing its new hotel property to other NHL teams when they are in town to play the Red Wings. The Detroit Free Press reports today that:

"It's not a coincidence that two of the hotel's confirmed guests are the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators hockey teams."

One has to wonder if the Ilitch family's MotorCity Casino will play host to the likes of Rick Tocchet and Mrs. Wayne Gretzky (Janet Jones) or other's involved in the illegal sports gambling ring when they're in town on NHL related business.

MotorCity Casino COO says Farag was wrong fit as VP of hotel operations

An explanation for the departure of two key players at MotorCity Casino is finally offered in a Detroit Free Press article today:

"Vice president of hotel operations Asaad Farag and executive chef Mike Russell both left less than two months before the hotel was originally scheduled to open Nov. 1. The opening was pushed back to allow additional deliveries and training time, executives said.

"Neither of the men is talking about their departures, but having to work that closely [with MotorCity Casino owner Marian Ilitch and COO Rhonda Cohen] on every detail may have grated on them, especially when both men had very high-profile positions elsewhere (in Farag's case, directing a five-star hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, and other hotel openings; in Russell's case, winning multiple national and international culinary Olympics medals).

"Cohen said simply, 'Sometimes, let's face it, wrong fit. It happens.' "

MotorCity Casino hotel: a gallery of press photos

The Detroit Free Press has posted these pictures and 17 others in a gallery of photos associated with the much anticipated opening of MotorCity Casino's hotel project 11.28.07:

Front Desk at MotorCity Casino's hotel

Marian Ilitch, owner of MotorCity Casino; VIP Press Event

What's the truth about the completion of construction on MotorCity Casino?

"Also unlike the MGM, MotorCity has elected to unveil its permanent facility in stages instead of a massive grand opening. In June, the new high rollers area and poker room opened to the public. Wednesday is the hotel’s debut. At the end of the year, the new Iridescence restaurant and a lounge will open on the tower’s top floor. And by the end of March next year, the rest of the renovated gaming areas, convention and banquet space and the concert area will be open."

In 2005, Marian Ilitch, the casino's owner told investors that construction on the $275 million expansion would be completed by the end of 2007.

Now it's reported the expansion has cost $300 million and wont' be completed until sometime in 2008.

MotorCity Casino reveues fall for third straight month; near pre-expansion lows

According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, revenues reported for October 2007 by MotorCity Casino have fallen for the third straight month. In October, the Ilitch-owned gaming hall, with its 5-month-old expanded gaming floor, reported revenues of close to $37.71 million; making October the second lowest performing month in 2007. Only May (the month prior to the opening of the newly expanded gaming floor) has had lower reported monthly revenues at $36.79 million.

Moody's reported to creditors that MotorCity Casino had completed construction and opened its newly expanded (25% larger) gaming floor in early June 2007. The casino saw a bump in revenues for June and July but since then revenues have fallen with each new month and in October were at pre-expansion lows. MotorCity Casino has faced a few hurddles this fall including a threatened strike, a one-day closure, loss of the hotel's VP of operations and the delayed opening of its 400-room hotel.

Source: Michigan Gaming Control Board

Analysts have expressed concern that MotorCity Casino hasn't performed to expectation and as such both Moody's and Standard & Poor's have both downgraded the credit ratings for MotorCity Casino's parent company CCM Merger, Inc. formed by Marian Ilitch in 2005 to facilitate the acquisition of Detroit Entertainment LLC d/b/a MotorCity Casino.

The investment in the expansion of the casino's gaming facilities have yet to yield and sustain any consistent new revenues.

MotorCity Casino expansion is over budget and behind schedule

Today's Detroit Free Press reports of the MotorCity Casino expansion:

"The overall renovating and buliding project is costing $300 million, and is expected to be complete by the end of March."

Originally it was announced the expansion program would cost $275 millon and would be completed by the end of 2007.

Although the expanded gambling floor (25% larger) was opened to the public back in June revenues reported for October were at pre-opening lows; and just 1% greater than revenues reported in October 2006. In fact, despite the June opening of the expanded gaming floor, revenues as reported have fallen for the last three consecutive months.

Moody's and Standard & Poor's were forced to drop their credit ratings of MotorCity Casino's parent company CCM Merger, Inc. in 2006 and have given the holding company a negative credit rating.

Moody's reports that investors -- those who've loaned Marian Ilitch the $1.1 billion she needed to acquire MotorCity Casino from MGM Mirage/Mandalay Resort Group, to complete the expansion and to finance the financing package -- have reason to be concerned.

Speculation about Ilitch Family real estate development projects

Note: a map of some 160 downtown Detroit properties controlled by the Ilitch Family is available at


Ilitches chart Foxtown moves
New hockey arena relocation downplayed; family turns to lots behind Fox Theatre.

Louis Aguilar and Joel J. Smith
The Detroit News

With the MotorCity Casino complex nearly finished, the powerful Ilitch family will most likely focus on the empty lots and buildings they've steadily acquired behind their Fox Theatre headquarters in downtown Detroit, Marian Ilitch, matriarch of the billion-dollar family empire, indicated Tuesday.

But plans for that roughly 10-block area west of Woodward Avenue may not include a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings, owned by Marian's husband, Mike Ilitch.

At a Tuesday press conference about the opening of her MotorCity Casino Hotel, Marian Ilitch was asked about the family's downtown properties.

"Most likely it will be to expand property behind the Fox Theatre. It may not turn out to be everything that everybody expects -- for instance, an arena -- however, it will be the best when it gets done," she said.

Marian Ilitch owns the MotorCity Casino. Together, she and her husband own Ilitch Holdings Inc., the Little Caesars Pizza chain and numerous downtown Detroit properties, ranging from concert venues like the Fox, restaurants like the Hockey Town Cafe and empty buildings and parcels.

"You have to be very careful about announcing future projects because if they don't come true you end up with egg on your face. But we do have other plans," Ilitch said.

Ilitch Holdings executives are deciding whether to renew the lease for the city-owned Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings now play, when it expires in 2009, or build a new facility. Speculation the Ilitches might build a new arena near the Fox Theatre has swirled as branches of Ilitch Holdings gained land and buildings behind the theater.

But that land certainly isn't the only empty space around the Fox Theatre and nearby Comerica Park, home of the Mike Ilitch-owned Detroit Tigers. The city of Detroit controls many parcels in the area.

In the past, the Ilitches have said they were in discussions with several national retailers about moving to the area, which the Ilitches have played a crucial role in helping rebuild.

Ilitch's comment Tuesday doesn't mean a decision has been made about building any new arena or what to do with the area behind the Fox, said Karen Cullen, spokeswoman for Ilitch Holdings.

"We've always said it's our neighborhood and we would like to continue to enhance it," Cullen said. "What specifically we will do there has not been decided."

You can reach Louis Aguilar at (313) 222-2760 or

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

MotorCity CEO now calling hotel debut a "soft opening," construction ongoing

An Associated Press story posted at (Local4 WDIV-TV) is reporting that parts of MotorCity Casino are still under construction despite a planned opening of the gambling hall's new 400-room hotel property which has already been delayd a month. Greg Solomon, CEO of Motor City Casino is now calling Wednesday's opening of the hotel a "soft opening" rather than a "Grand Opening."

Associated Press
"The 400-room, 17-story tower is part of her gambling hall's ongoing $300 million expansion project...

"The casino [MotorCity] had pushed back a Nov. 1 opening of the hotel because of delays in delivering furnishings and fixtures. Parts of the building still are under construction, and Solomon says Wednesday marks a 'soft opening.' "

Like other news outlets, Associated Press is also reporting that the expansion project previously understood by investors to be budgeted at $275 million investment is now $25 million over budget, topping out at $300 million.

MotorCity Casino expansion over budget; construction ongoing

Two years ago at a ground breaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction on the expansion and rennovation of MotorCity Casino it was reported the $275 million project would be completed by the end of 2007.

"DETROIT, Nov. 30, 2005 - In a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony today, MotorCity Casino broke ground on a $275-million dollar casino hotel and conference center at its present location near Grand River Avenue and the Lodge freeway...

"Construction has begun on a 17-story, 400-room hotel tower and parking structure and is expected to be completed in late 2007."
Today the Detroit News is reporting the project has actually cost $300 million (a budget over run of $25 million) and the construction is ongoing:

"The hotel, part of the casino's ongoing $300 million renovation project, opens to the public Wednesday."

Was construction completed on MotorCity Casino's gambling facilities back in June as Moody's reported?

Although Moody's reported to investors in August 2007 that MotorCity Casino had completed construction on its expanded gaming floor back in June and had opened the new gaming facilities to the public at that time, Crain's Detroit now reports that for October:

"MotorCity Casino reported $37.7 million in revenue, a 1 percent increase over last October, as it continues refurbishing its gambling areas and planning for the opening of its hotel this week."

Who told Moody's the expanded gaming floor project was completed? Were representatives of MotorCity Casino trying to suggest to analysts at Moody's that the casino's financial position would turn around due to the completion of the expand gaming floor? Through October that hasn't been the case. And now Crain's and locals who've visited MotorCity Casino say construction on the gaming floor is still underway.

And the Detroit Free Press is reporting that the price tag for the MotorCity Casino project may have budget over runs of some $25 million. Someone's suggesting that the price tag for the expansion jumped from $275 million to $300 million.
What's the truth?

Is MotorCity Casino's expansion project $25 million over budget?

Has Marian Ilitch's expansion of MotorCity Casino's gaming floor and her addition of a 400-room hotel feature gone over budget by $25 million?

The expansion and rennovation was originally billed as a $275 million project but recently the Detroit Free Press has been reporting that the costs have risen to $300 million; that's a $25 million increase (or almost 10% over budget).

"Workers raced Monday to polish off the final details on the massive new $300-million MotorCity Casino Hotel complex in preparation for Wednesday's grand opening."
Given that the opening of the expanded gaming floor in June was followed by just a two-month bump in increased revenues; and given that October's revenues for MotorCity Casino were only 1% greater than in Oct. 2006; and and given October's revenues were comparable to pre-expansion opening figures (May 2007); one must question how MotorCity Casino can sustain a $25 million construction overage.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bay Mills Indian Community v. Western United Life Assurance Co.; Federal court rejects Charlotte Beach land claims


among Land Claims cases:

Bay Mills Indian Community v. Western United Life Assurance Co., No. 99-1036 (6th Cir. 2000).

Bay Mills Indian Community filed a complaint asserting an interest in a parcel of property within the county (a subdivision recorded as Charlotte Beach). Bay Mills alleged various federal constitutional and statutory violations in connection with the 1884 ouster from the property of its predecessors in interest, two aboriginal Chippewa bands, and sought either equitable title to the property or damages equal to its value and damages for the loss of the use and enjoyment of the land since 1884.

The defendants, individuals and entities currently possessing various interests in the property, moved to dismiss the action under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) and 19 for failure to join an indispensable party, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The district court granted the defendants' motion and dismissed the plaintiff's complaint.


Mike Malik and Marian Ilitch: noteworthy, not huge


Two noteworthy casino entrepreneurs

Born: 1933

Personal: Graduated from Fordson High in Dearborn. Married to Mike Ilitch; six children.

Professional: She and Mike opened first Little Caesars restaurant in Garden City in 1959. They own the Little Caesars pizza chain, a food distribution network, the Fox Theatre, Olympia Entertainment and the Detroit Red Wings. She was investor in MotorCity Casino when it opened and purchased it outright in 2005.

Marian Ilitch, owner of MotorCity Casino, is one of Michigan's wealthiest women.

Born: 1954

Personal: Born in Detroit, avid hunter, has lived in Grosse Pointe Shores and now Birmingham.

Professional: A real estate developer and broker, he also owns MJM Enterprises and Development, which has various casino projects, has been involved in American Indian gaming since the 1980s and teamed with Atwater Entertainment in 1996 to support passage of statewide proposal allowing three casinos to be built in Detroit.

Red Wings went ahead with Gambling Tournament at MotorCity Casino

Posted by blogger George James Malik (no relation to Michael J. Malik, Sr.) 11.25.07 at Snapshots:
Although unrelated, it's worth noting that while the flak the Ilitches received for staging a "Texas Hold 'Em" tournament at Motor City Casino which included a $500 donation to play at a table with several Red Wings--mostly because the tie-ins with casino gambling are a "no-no" for NHL teams--the tournament, held on November 5th, did in fact happen. The Red Wings simply never mentioned the results thereof.

Marian Ilitch owns MotorCity Casino and along with her husband Mike Ilitch she co-owns the Detroit Red Wings. An earlier announcement about the poker tournament was pulled from the Red Wings official Web site.

Detroit Free Press exposes Malik/Ilitch casino enterprises

NOTE: The Detroit Free Press, which ranks as #20 among the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers, has a sunday subscription of 640,000+


Pair betting on a huge payoff from casinos
Ilitch, Malik raise stakes in Indian gaming


WASHINGTON -- Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik are spending big money to navigate political hurdles for their plans for American Indian casinos on both coasts and in Michigan.

Ilitch is one of Michigan's most powerful and wealthy women as owner of the MotorCity Casino and co-owner of the Detroit Red Wings with her husband, Mike, who also owns the Detroit Tigers. Malik is a big-time real estate developer, casino entrepreneur and, in at least a couple of ventures, Marian Ilitch's partner.

Together, they have spent more than $1 million on lobbyists for their casino proposals and made more than $400,000 in political contributions during the last five years.

Money has gone to Northeastern Democrats, West Coast Republicans and many key races and causes in between. A few months after a fund-raiser for Sen. Carl Levin early this year, the Detroit Democrat agreed to support a casino project in Port Huron, despite opposition from some city officials and its congressional delegation.

So far, the investments have not led to approvals for the casino proposals, but the potential payoff is enormous.

"It could mean as much as $100- to $200 million a year for the Ilitches. ... So it's certainly worth their while," said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business, a trade magazine. Whatever they're spending, he added, "is peanuts compared to what they could take in."

Their bets are still long shots, having run into a stretch of bad luck. In California, where Ilitch and Malik are working with two tribes for a casino in Barstow, on the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, the legislature let a compact expire.

In New York, where they are working with the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a federal judge has ruled against the tribe's land claim in Southampton.

Last week, a House committee abruptly delayed a hearing on the plan for an Indian casino in Port Huron. Unlike the other proposals, Malik and the Bay Mills tribe from the eastern Upper Peninsula are working without Ilitch. Though it has her tacit support, she can't be directly involved because of her casino ownership in Detroit.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for Ilitch and Malik, said the proposals all are in play.

"You can't get into this thing unless you're going to be in it for the long haul," Shields said. "If you are successful, obviously, the investment pays off."

And then some.

A contract to run a tribal casino can be worth up to 30% of net revenues each year, under federal law.

Last year, Michigan's Saginaw Chippewa tribe -- which runs Soaring Eagle Resort and Casino in Mt. Pleasant -- paid local governments 2% of net revenues or about $8 million.

A 30% management contract would have been worth $120 million.

How big are Ilitch and Malik in the casino business? Noteworthy, not huge, Gros said.

In part, that's because of their success in outlasting anti-gambling foes at home and finally -- after Windsor got gaming -- winning public support in a Detroit vote in 1994 and statewide two years later.

It was during that time that Malik and Marian Ilitch became acquainted. Now, said Gros, "whenever you go to a new jurisdiction, you expect to see them there," riding their success in Detroit. (Malik is no longer associated with MotorCity Casino.)

Since they're not running multiple casinos, they are better positioned to shower attention on communities and tribes they work with, Gros said.

That goes for politicians, too, though, as Shields noted, their competitors often can afford to spend more on politicians and lobbyists.

Take, for instance, Michigan's Saginaw Chippewa tribe.

Since 2001, the tribe, which opposes the Port Huron project, has spent more than $900,000 on campaign contributions and to many of the same people Ilitch and Malik have supported, like Alaska Rep. Don Young, a former Republican chairman and now ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, which hears American Indian-related issues.

It is the cost of doing business, Shields said. And it is one other metro Detroiters in the game have paid, including:

    Don Barden, who is working on a casino in Pittsburgh and has spent more than $300,000 on campaign contributions since 1997, according to records of the Federal Election Commission.

    Herb Strather, who has given financial considerations to a Massachusetts tribe which recently won federal recognition. He has contributed more than $70,000 to politicians and causes since 1998, according to federal records.
Spending money on lobbyists and politicians is all "part of the investment," Shields said.

"We're relatively small players considering the others' size," he added.

Over the years, contributions from Ilitch and Malik have run the gamut. They've contributed to both parties. They've funded well-known national campaigns (George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani), key state and local races (Mark Raymond Kennedy, a Minnesota Republican who lost a bid for Senate last year) and some candidates in their back yards, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Candice Miller -- but not Detroit Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick or John Conyers, who have received contributions from the Saginaw Chippewa.

Dating to 2002, Marian Ilitch has given $178,403 -- $44,900 in the current two-year cycle. Her husband, Mike, has given $142,797, dating to 1997.

Malik has given at least $264,575 since early 2003.

In 2004, the three each contributed $24,000 to Sen. Harry Reid, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission who became the Senate minority leader that year, or they gave to the leadership political action committee, or PAC, he controls.

Despite the support, Reid remains opposed in principle to the Port Huron proposal.

The Ilitches and Malik have contributed more than $30,000 to Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat, or his leadership PAC.

Although he doesn't sit on any of the committees tied to Indian gaming, Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, could be critical to getting federal recognition for the Shinnecock tribe, which in turn could help them get the Long Island casino Malik and Ilitch want.

The partners also have targeted state politicians -- especially in California.

In 2006, Malik gave $37,200 to races and issues in California, including $20,000 to a group which successfully opposed a referendum which could have hurt the casino proposal. Two years earlier, Barwest LLC -- the Ilitch/Malik venture trying to develop the casino -- contributed $26,600 in California to the San Joaquin Republican Victory Fund.

San Joaquin is about 300 miles from Barstow, where Malik and Ilitch want the casino.

Still, their money was trumped by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians -- which owns a casino in Highland, Calif., and opposes the Barstow casino. The band made $2.3 million in campaign contributions in 2005 and 2006.

Some of the Ilitch/Malik political giving has been controversial. In 2005, the partners made news for a political fund-raiser held at the Fox Theatre in Detroit and in their box at Comerica Park during Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Detroit.

It was for Rep. Richard Pombo of California, just days before his committee heard legislation affecting the Shinnecocks. This year, a fund-raiser for Sen. Carl Levin at Joe Louis Arena drew attention. Levin is seeking re-election next year. The Ilitches, their son Christopher and Malik were hosts. Before then, Levin had only received a single donation from the family -- $500 from Mike Ilitch in 2002.

The Bay Mills tribe, partners with Malik in the Port Huron casino proposal, also sent money Levin's way, as did other supporters of that casino and their lobbyists. All together, the contributions were worth about $50,000.

A few months later, Port Huron's mayor sent Levin -- who until then had been neutral on the project -- a letter asking for his support, talking about the double-digit unemployment in the city, its struggling economy and the casinos across the Blue Water Bridge in Canada.

Levin offered his support then, calling the mayor's arguments persuasive. He declined to speak for this article. His office said he preferred to let his letter speak for itself.

Politics being politics, however, there is a footnote.

A few months after the fund-raiser, Mike and Marian Ilitch each gave $28,500 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Its goal: defeat Levin and other Senate Democrats to retake control of the chamber next year.

Contact TODD SPANGLER at 202-906-8203 or at

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    Ilitch has backed loosing sports teams and pizza, but casinos in Detroit? 10.09.06 ● Marian Ilitch #1 on "25 Most Powerful People" to Watch 2006” global gaming business o1.oo.o5 ● My Kingdom for a Casino Forbes 05.08.06 ● Big Lagoon’s casino dream awakens north coast journal 07.28.05 ● Shinnecocks launch legal claim to Hamptons land 06.16.05 ● Ilitch Plans to Expand Casino Empire 07.05.05 ● Ilitch outbids partners 04.14.05 ● Ilitch enmeshed in NY casino dispute 03.20.05 ● Marian Ilitch, high roller 03.20.05 ● MGM Mirage to Decide on Offer for Casino in Detroit 04.16.05 ● Secret deal for MotorCity alleged 02.15.05 ● Los Coyotes get new developer 02.08.05 Detroit casino figure to finance Barstow project 07.07.03 ● Indian Band trying to put casino in Barstow 06.04.03 Pizza matriarch takes on casino roles 10.23.02 ● Vanderbilt gets short straw in negotiations for a casino Lansing Journal 10.06.02 ● Indians aim to drive family from tribe in vicious dispute san diego union tribune 04.09.00 ●Malik owns 2000 Michigan Quarter Horse of the Year 01.01.00 ● Detroit Team to run Michigan’s newest Indian casino 05.23.99 Tiger ties tangle Marian Ilitch 04.29.99 ● Three investors must sell their Detroit casino interests 04.25.99 ● Partners’ cash revived election; They say money was crucial to Prop-E 04.25.99 Investors have troubled histories las vegas review journal 04.27.99 ● Investor served probation for domestic assault on 12 year old boy 04.25.99 Can a pair win a jackpot?: local men hope to... 03.17.97

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