Casinos want bailout, says shutdown affects 19,681 employees in Michigan

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The state's massive casino industry now knows how its customers too often feel when they walk out the door — with nothing but lint in the pockets.

All of Michigan's 26 casinos, including MGM Grand, Greektown and MotorCity in Detroit, now have closed because of the global coronavrius outbreak, costing the properties collectively more than $1 billion if they remain shut for the eight weeks recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sports betting has come to a halt at MGM Grand Detroit, as the sports world is pretty much completely suspended.

The American Gaming Association, which currently is lobbying for a federal bailout on the industry's behalf, said approximately 19,681 casino employees now are out of work, while the state stands to lose at least $1.05 billion in "economic activity."

That includes hundreds of millions in expected losses from the Detroit trio, costing the state and city of Detroit tens of millions in tax dollars.

The three Detroit casinos have pledged to pay their employees at least through the end of the month, having closed earlier this week because of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order limiting how many people can gather in one place. Each donated thousands of pounds of food to local food banks, including Forgotten Harvest and Gleaners, with MotorCity and MGM Grand also donating thousands of gloves to DDOT bus drivers, and Greektown offering its space for makeshift hospital use.

In terrible timing for the casinos, each of the Detroit three recently opened sports books now that live sports betting is legal, only for the sports world to shut down because of the virus, too. That's expected to cost the three casinos more than $10 million in revenues. Betting slips for games that didn't happen, as well as for future over-unders, can be returned.

The other 23 casinos, all tribal casinos, are not regulated by the state, but now have closed, too.

Across the country, an estimated 622,000 employees at 989 casinos are out of work.

“The impact on our employees, their families, and communities is staggering, and the implications extend far beyond the casino floor," AGA president and CEO Bill Miller said. "Leading technology companies that supply the industry, and the nearly 350,000 small-business employees that rely on gaming for their livelihood, are also feeling the devastating blow of this unprecedented public health crisis.

“The federal government must act swiftly and comprehensively to get America’s hospitality employees, and the small businesses that support them, back to work.

"Gaming employees, their families, and communities are bearing the brunt of this economic standstill and will continue to suffer if Congress and the administration don’t take immediate action.

The AGA estimates nationwide, a two-month casino shutdown could cost $43.5 billion in economic activity, and $74 billion in wages for employees.

The casino industry is one of several seeking federal assistance, including the airline and hotel industries.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984