Greektown Casino to be renamed ‘Jack’

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

You don’t know “Jack” — but you will by the end of the year.

In late 2016, Greektown will be renamed “Jack Casino Hotel Detroit Greektown.”

Greektown Casino Hotel is rolling the dice with a new name: By late 2016 it will be called Jack Detroit Casino Hotel Greektown. It’s part of a $40 million rebranding of Dan Gilbert’s Rock Gaming LLC — now called Jack Entertainment LLC — that will reshape Gilbert’s four gaming halls under a common theme with interchangeable rewards systems.

The name — suggested by a Rock Ventures employee after a long process that involved outside marketing firms — is meant to convey a progressive, even rebellious attitude. A promotional video describes Jack as “that friend that got you to do things you knew you probably shouldn’t do.”

At least one branding expert thinks the new name will be a hit.

“Greektown as an image for the casino was kind of old and tired,” said Robert Kolt, an instructor in the advertising and public relations department at Michigan State University. “Any rebranding effort is going to be a good investment. Every so often you want to put a fresh coat of paint on the house, and that’s what they’re doing.”

The Greektown name has been emblazoned on the building in the Detroit historic neighborhood since the casino’s opening in 2000. Gilbert’s company took control of the casino and hotel in 2013, eventually gaining 100 percent ownership.

“We’re not at all distancing ourselves from Greektown,” Matt Cullen, CEO of Jack Entertainment, told The Detroit News. “It’s a legacy we’re proud of. We’re not trying to move away from it. We just want all our properties linked under one banner.”

The rebranding will start March 9 with Jack ThistleDown Racino outside Cleveland. That will be followed by Jack Cleveland Casino (formerly Horseshoe Cleveland) in early May, and Jack Cincinnati Casino (formerly Horseshoe Cincinnati) in early June. Greektown will transition last, in “late 2016,” Jack Entertainment said.

The company said “Jack” is intended as “ an attitude and a way of thinking; it is our company’s progressive spirit, pursuit of excellence and desire to deliver our guests with an unexpected, extraordinary experience every time they visit.”

Social media reacts

The reaction on social media to the name change wasn’t positive.

“Apparently, they don’t know Jack about naming a casino. And you certainly won’t win Jack playing there. I just hope they don’t Jack up the prices in the restaurants. And be careful not to get car Jacked in the parking lot,” wrote a commenter with the Facebook profile name Jeff Peck.

“Sounds like some cheap Kmart level casino,” wrote a Facebook user with the name James Renn.

Kolt said the negative reaction could be a chance for Jack to gain more customers.

“If there’s a negative reaction, it gives them the opportunity to convince them with a pretty good marketing effort,” Kolt said. “I’m sure they did the appropriate research to figure out what people are thinking. I think there’s room for building a brand of Jack and making it anything they want it to be.”

Effect on Greektown

As part of the rebranding, the Greektown and the three Ohio casinos will introduce a “Club Jack” rewards and points system that can be used at all of the properties. Previously, visitors could not use points earned at Greektown at the Ohio casinos.

The club will offer four levels of membership: J, A, C and K. J is the entry-level card, while members will need 300,000 points before earning the K card.

Customers earn points through various games and can use them for comps at local restaurants and hotels, or for free play. The company will offer free cruises and trips to Las Vegas for select guests, it said.

In a conference call with reporters, Mark Dunkeson, president and chief operating officer of Jack Entertainment, called Greektown Casino an “iconic property in an iconic neighborhood,” but said, “I think it’s going to be a very positive change.”

Tasso Teftsis, a member of the Greektown Preservation Society and owner of multiple businesses on Monroe including Astoria Pastry Shop, said Gilbert’s company called to notify him of the change before the announcement was made.

“I think they know what they’re doing; I don’t think it would affect Greektown in any negative way,” he said. “They probably have a reason why they want to name it, but people will probably always refer to it as ‘Greektown.’ ”

Cullen disagrees, saying he thinks “eventually it will become known as ‘Jack,’ ” but that doesn’t change the company’s commitment to the neighborhood.

The Detroit casino employs about 1,900. It made $329.8 million last year, an increase from the $326.6 million it made in 2014, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Cullen said Jack Entertainment is wrapping up a $50 million renovation to the casino that includes a new air quality system and high-limit room.

Since Gilbert’s company took ownership, Teftsis said it has worked with local merchants to keep the district’s historic character and limit chain businesses. Last year, the casino partnered with other companies to introduce patio seating and entertainment on Monroe during the summer. That will continue in June, Teftsis said.

“They do consult with us and we work together really well,” he said.

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