Friday, June 12, 2009

Ilitch makes rare TV appearance; takes credit for whatever's good in Detroit right now

Christopher Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. made a rare appearance on CNBC this week. The Ilitch family had hoped their Detroit Red Wings would win the 2009 Stanley Cup and Little Caesars pizza is celebrating its 50th annivesary. Ilitch appears to be Detroit's only voice of optimism these days. He's a one man band when it comes to promoting Detroit. He claims his family's business are the one thing that brings hope to Detroiters otherwise terminal economy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Revenue rises at struggling Greektown but Ilitch-owned MotorCity Casino sees declines again

According to various news accounts, the latest revenue results released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), indicate the overall gaming market in Detroit saw a 4.2% decline in May; however, Greektown Casino-Hotel appears to have bucked the trend for the fourth month in a row with a stunning 7.2% year-over-year revenue increase for the month. (At the time of this post, Data had yet to be posted to the MGCB web site.)

Greektown was the only Detroit casino to see an increase, while revenues at MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino dropped 10.9% and 3.6% respectively.

It should be noted that Greektown in particular has struggled financially in recent years and in May 2008 filed for bankruptcy protection. So, bragging rights about revenue growth at Greektown in May 2009 as compared to May 2008 should be tempered. May 2008 represented perhaps the lowest point in Greektown's financial health.

Despite a major renovation at MotorCity Casino including the addition off theaters, conference and restaurant amenities, and a 400-room luxury hotel, it has generally failed to meet financial expectations since Marian Ilitch acquired control of the property from MGM Mirage in 2005. Both Moody's and Standard & Poor's have now established a steady pattern of declining credit ratings for MotorCity's financial parent during this period.

Among numerous other affiliates, Ilitch controls CCM Merger, Inc. which is the highly leveraged financial parent of Detroit Entertainment LLC (DELLC) which is the entity that does business as (dba) MotorCity Casino. In December 2008, CCM Merger broke its financial convenants and as a result, investors demanded Marian Ilitch inject $45 million cash into the enterprise.

Financial results published by MGCB

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ilitch must announce intentions for Joe Louis Arena June 30

Bill Shea at Crain's Detroit Business blogs:

... Mike and Marian Ilitch, the franchise’s owners [Detroit Red Wings] since 1982, have until June 30 to tell Detroit if they will modernize the 30-year-old, city-owned Joe Louis Arena or construct a new venue that likely would cost $300 million to $400 million.

Renovating Joe Louis reportedly could cost $180 million or more.

The lease expires July 1, 2010, but the Ilitches are contractually obligated to tell the city a year ahead of time their intentions. Doing nothing renews the lease for 20 years.

The team and city have been hush-hush about their Joe Louis talks. Scuttlebutt says the Ilitches want an extension to continue negotiations while they map out a plan for a new venue — likely on the land in the Foxtown area they’ve been buying up in recent years. (Full Post)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Is Marian Ilitch behind plans to develop Indian casino at New York's Belmont Park Race Track?

Detroit's Marian Ilitch and her casino and real estate partner Michael J. Malik, Sr., formed the casino syndicate Gateway Casino Resorts in 2003 to pursue Indian gaming ventures with the Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York. The tribe is not yet federally recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, but has a reservation in Southampton, NY.

Ilitch and affiliates are reportedly paying the Shinnecock's legal and lobbying bills and if the tribe wins federal recognition, Ilitch and affiliates would have the exclusive right to develop and manage any casino resort the tribe would develop and operate. According to, they have spent more than $1.6 million alone in federal lobbying activities.

Initially Ilitch and partners sought to develop a 65,000 square foot casino project in Hampton Bays part of Long Island's posh Hamptons resort area -- 4.3 miles from the tribe's offices and 85 miles from New York's Times Square. The tribe owns property known as "The Westwoods" north of Newtown Rd. and broke ground on that project in 2003. That project has subsequently met with much resistance and is stalled.

In 2007, Ilitch and her partners, made a bid that would have allowed Gateway and the Shinnecock to develop a casino resort project on the grounds of the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, NY -- approximately 14 miles from Times Square. That casino would have been 495,000 square foot -- 7.5 times the size of the original casino proposed for the Hamptons and 4.5 times larger than Ilitch's MotorCity Casino in Detroit.

Now the Shinnecock tribe, which has had its desire for federal recognition fast-tracked thanks to funding and support from Ilitch and affiliates, is bidding to develop and operate a casino project at Belmont Park Race Track -- approximately 19 miles from New York's Times Square. Presumably Ilitch's affiliates are part of this latest Shinnecock casino scheme.

Marian Ilitch and her husband Mike Ilitch own the Detroit Red Wings NHL franchise and c0-founded Little Caesars pizza stores. He also owns the Detroit Tigers and she owns the struggling MotorCity Casino, one of three large Las Vegas-style casino properties in Detroit. Their parent company is the privately held Ilitch Holdings, Inc.

Google Map of various casino sites
as proposed by Shinnecock/Gateway

View Various Proposed Shinnecock Casino Sites in a larger map

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Shinnecock Indians eye casino at Belmont Park racetrack


Indian tribe eyes Belmont Park for casino


NEW YORK (AP) — You can't bet on the biggest longshot at Belmont Park — not yet, anyway.

The finish line is still far off, but for a tiny Indian tribe eking out a living in the heart of one the world's richest communities, Long Island's famed racetrack could be the place where their fortunes change.

As the thoroughbred racing world turns its attention to Saturday's 141st Belmont Stakes, members of the Shinnecock Indian tribe have said in recent days they are willing to consider Belmont Park as the location for the casino they want to open.

The track is located just outside New York City, meaning millions in the metropolitan area could satisfy a gambling yen without a trip to Atlantic City or to Indian-run casinos in Connecticut, both at least 90 minutes away. But there are many hurdles to leap before the roulette wheels start spinning.

The Shinnecock, whose earlier plans for a casino in Southampton sent shudders through their wealthy neighbors in 2003, reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior last week that speeds up the process for the tribe to receive formal recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs — necessary before any tribe can even consider opening a gambling facility. Tribal representatives were in Washington on Wednesday, where they were expected to make their case for federal recognition, which the tribe has been seeking since 1978.

"As Indian people, even though we've maintained who we are for generations, and surrounded by some of the wealthiest communities in the country, perhaps this recognition will help some of our neighbors better understand us and foster a new mutual respect," said Shinnecock trustee Randy King.

"We have long prided ourselves on the good relationship we have had with the state of New York and the local community around our reservation," Shinnecock trustee Gordell Wright said. "We fully intend to remain good neighbors as we pursue opportunities to provide jobs for our people."

Interior Department officials are reviewing ancestral records and other historical documents of the tribe before determining whether the Shinnecocks meet the recognition criteria, said BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling. The tribe had sought to circumvent the federal approval process by seeking recognition in federal court, but a judge rejected that effort in 2007.

Even with federal recognition, the tribe would have to have other federal and state approvals. A preliminary decision on recognition is expected by Dec. 15, and final approval could come sometime next year. In addition to being able to operate a casino, the Shinnecock would be eligible for federal grants and other funding.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which runs one of two of Connecticut's lucrative casinos — Foxwoods — said it wished the Shinnecock well in its bid for federal recognition, but spokeswoman Lori A. Potter declined comment on whether it supports a possible Shinnecock casino.

"The people in the surrounding communities have indicated support," said Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi; the track, about 70 miles from the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton, is in his county.

"This could be a home run. Belmont is the ideal location both for the operators of a casino, the residents and the local governments. If it is going to be in the region, I'd rather see it at Belmont," Suozzi added.

Tribal leaders are keeping their intentions close to the vest, saying only that they are willing to negotiate with state leaders on a location for any casino. "Anything between Suffolk (on eastern Long Island) and the Catskills could be an appropriate site," said Shinnecock trustee Fred Bess.

Added King: "We're even willing to consider locations not currently on the table."

But Belmont seems to be getting much of the attention from politicians handicapping the possibilities. State and local officials have been discussing improvements at Belmont and its surrounding community for the past several years. There has been talk of building hotels and restaurants, but few concrete proposals have come to fruition.

Suozzi, a possible contender for statewide office in 2010, said he would want to ensure school districts and local governments benefit from the income a casino would bring, and said many other questions remained before he would give his full endorsement. "We'd like to see enhancements to the local community as part of any agreement," he said.

About 500 Shinnecock tribal members now live in modest homes on a 1,200-acre reservation in Southampton. Nearby, some of the richest people in the world, including Wall Street power brokers and Hollywood celebrities, have sprawling estates worth tens of millions.

As a seaside tribe, the Shinnecocks for decades depended on fishing and whaling to support themselves. Later, the nation leased its land to local area farmers for their crops, mainly potatoes and corn.

Many of those still on the reservation work as craftspeople and artists. Others work in a variety of mainstream jobs around Long Island. They see the prospects of a casino, and the millions it could bring, as a way out of their modest circumstances.

An earlier tribal proposal to open a casino near their Southampton property ignited a stir, with some officials claiming the bucolic beauty of Long Island's east end would be adversely impacted by the influx of thousands of gamblers — not just in the summer when the Hamptons' population surges, but year-round.

A casino at Belmont, where there are major highways nearby, as well as a Long Island Rail Road station, would ease those concerns.

When the Shinnecocks broke ground in 2003 on their proposed Southampton casino, town officials raced into federal court and got an injunction to stop it. Since then, Suffolk County officials formed a task force to study the issue; County Executive Steve Levy said he is waiting for the results of that study before taking a position.

Outside the Elmont Public Library on Wednesday, residents had differing views of a Belmont casino's impact on the community.

"The biggest factor that bothers me is the excess traffic," said Giovanni Soto. "I'm not concerned with regards to crime and stuff. I've been to other casinos and it seems in general that hasn't been a problem."

Zahid Chaudry said he wanted no part of a casino. "It's just going to be a hangout for the wrong crowd," he said. "The crowd that just wants to make fast money easily. They're not working for it and that's not the type of people the hard-working people of Elmont want."

Jean Charles agreed that a casino at Belmont "is a longshot." But he said he would welcome it if it happened. "I think we're grown up enough to handle a casino. It would bring in good money."

A spokesman for a Democratic state senator in the area called the Belmont idea "an intriguing and exciting possibility." Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos's spokesman said more information is needed, but he "would be open" to an Indian-run casino at Belmont.

The Shinnecocks have also expressed interest in nearby Aqueduct racetrack, and said it is still a possibility.

New York Gov. David Paterson's administration is reviewing bids now for by several consortiums that want to run a video slot machine center at Aqueduct, about five minutes' ride from Belmont. The state was counting on about $250 million in annual revenue from 4,500 video slot machines and jobs for 1,200 people at the Queens track.

In March, the original bid winner, Buffalo-based Delaware North, said the credit collapse on Wall Street forced it to seek a restructuring of its video slots proposal because it could no longer provide the $370 million in upfront payments to the state.

Alan Meister, an economist with the Los Angeles-based Analysis Group, compiles the annual Indian Gaming Industry Report. He said so-called "racinos" have become popular at racetracks around the country in recent years; one such racino operates at Yonkers Raceway, north of New York City. He said because the Shinnecocks have yet to commit to a location or type of gambling operation, it is difficult to predict success.

"There is a potential to grow the market," Meister conceded.

Meister's report for 2007 — the latest figures available — noted that 230 tribes were operating 425 gaming facilities in 28 states, generating $26.5 billion in gaming revenue, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

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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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