Detroit casino regulator OK'd as head of state gaming control board

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The deputy director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board's division responsible for regulating Detroit's casinos on Monday became executive director of the agency.

The Michigan Senate last week approved Henry Williams' six-year appointment to lead the regulatory body administering licenses and enforcing statutes concerning the state's gaming industry in a 34-1 confirmation vote. He replaces Richard Kalm, who resigned in April following the January launch of online gambling in Michigan.

Henry Williams becomes executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

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The Detroit resident brings 20 years of experience working at the control board. Most recently, he was deputy director of the Casinos Operations division. In addition to regulating the Detroit casinos, the division issues occupational licenses, houses the agency's Gaming Lab that tracks gaming software, and manages self-exclusion programs for people with gambling problems.

Kalm worked as the board's executive director since 2007 when Detroit's three commercial casinos still were building their hotels. A year later in 2008, he was tasked with protecting the state's interests during the bankruptcy of Greektown Casino-Hotel when it was owned by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and some Detroit developers.

Kalm also led the long-anticipated launch of retail sports betting in March 2020 just before the state ordered the closure of the Detroit casinos as COVID-19 cases popped up in Michigan.

Williams will oversee the continued safety restrictions at the casinos as they make their rebound from the shutdowns over the past year. Detroit's three casinos netted nearly $109 million in revenue in April, shy of the $125 million made that month in 2019. They continue to operate with 30% capacity.

The nascent online betting business also will be under his jurisdiction after it went live Jan. 22.

Williams began his career in state government in 1997. Before that, he held various positions as a juvenile justice worker, family independence specialist, protective services worker and probation officer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marygrove College. Williams also is a licensed social worker in Michigan.

"The mission of the Gaming Control Board is to ensure the conduct of fair, honest gaming," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement in April following Williams' appointment. "With the nomination of Henry Williams, I am confident that the board will continue protecting and advancing the interests of Michiganders and the state."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble