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Motown Madness

Motown Madness

I see the Detroit casinos are celebrating their 10th anniversary. Huzzah!

I remember the wisecracks I made in one of my columns when I first heard they were putting casinos in Detroit. I remember one about a “demilitarized zone” being set up to build the casinos in, complete with guard towers. Then, there was my idea to open a riverside casino restaurant, which I was going to call “The Bobbing Cadaver.”

To my friends in Detroit, you did know I was just kidding, didn’t you? Ha ha! What a card that Legato guy is, don’t you think?

Ten years later, the casinos in Detroit are all in beautiful permanent facilities, and they’re all holding their own despite this stinking heap of fuming manure into which the economy has sunk. (As you can see, I’ve cleaned up my metaphors for print suitability.)

My boss, Publisher Roger Gros, just made a trip to Detroit, and he commented how convenient Greektown is to all the great sports stuff-which, let’s face it, is some of the best sports stuff anywhere. Roger went to a Detroit Tigers game while he was there, and the last time I was in Detroit, I went to a Red Wings hockey game.

A side note: I am a diehard Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and the Pens were dispatched in last year’s Stanley Cup finals by those same Detroit Red Wings, but damn, I still love going to that hockey arena in Detroit. They sell whiskey along with the beer at the concession stands. Yep, if you want a good time, there’s nothing like 10,000 whiskey-drunk hockey fans screaming at the top of their lungs. In case you wondered, I do not wear my Penguins jersey there, because I have grown fond of my bones.

Oh, yeah. This is a gaming column. Sorry-I digress. To get back to my original point (and if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I rarely have one), the Detroit gaming industry has come a long way in 10 years. And, my bemused wanderings from gaming into sports, though no doubt a symptom of my rapidly approaching dementia, are not far off the mark. Sports and casinos mesh nicely in Detroit. The Ilitch family, which owns the Tigers and the Red Wings, also owns the MotorCity Casino.

(Of course, they also own the Little River Casino, Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice, Olympic Entertainment, Uptown Entertainment, and, I believe, several third-world countries.)

The casinos also mesh in nicely with the heritage of the area. Bunches of unemployed auto workers were hired to work at the casinos. (So was their union, but that’s another story.) And what better heritage for casino entertainment could there be than Motown?

Of course, these days, we’re more likely to get faux Motown. Instead of the Temptations, you’ll get one elderly Temptation and a bunch of young guys. Instead of the Four Tops, you’ve got the One Breathing Top and Company. Smokey’s still around, but without any Miracles. Heck, I’m not even sure if Gladys Knight has a Pip to her name anymore. (OK, I’ll stop. It’s a gaming column.)

Finally, despite all my early wisecracks about casinos in so-called “dangerous Detroit,” it is really a secure environment for players. There was just a story in the Associated Press the other day about an assumed terrorist whose planned attack was apparently thwarted after he was caught on video dropping off several “suspicious items” in the parking garage at MotorCity. The devices, at first thought to be pipe bombs, were destroyed by the bomb squad, and the guy was arrested.

Of course, he was arrested in his suburban home. At 1 a.m. And it turns out he was 70 years old. And there were no explosives found.

But still, he dumped stuff in a parking garage. So maybe they were sandwich wrappers he had in his car, or adult diapers (insert your own “70-year-old bomber” joke here). They could have been pipe bombs, and the guy could have been a dangerous criminal, and he was apprehended, at home, cleverly disguised as an old man in pajamas without his dentures in.

The point is, Detroit’s security apparatus was on the ball here. It is a safe place to play, and people can feel secure that they’re not going to be harmed by 70-year-old men in pajamas.

Come to think of it, I think the guy may have been a Pip.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.