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Detroit native, casino magnate buying 1,000 flights to help restart Las Vegas economy

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

With the Las Vegas strip scheduled to reopen in less than a week, Derek Stevens is doing his part to get the almighty dollar circulating through Sin City's array of slot machines again.

Stevens, a Metro Detroit native and owner of the D Casino and The Golden Gate in downtown (or old) Las Vegas, announced this week he's buying 1,000 flights to Las Vegas for gamblers throughout the country.

Vegas casino magnate Derek Stevens stands near construction of Circa Resort & Casino earlier this year.

Stevens has booked the tickets on 51 different flights originating from 24 airports, including Detroit Metro and Grand Rapids' Gerald R. Ford International Airport. He made the announcement Wednesday. The free flights are one way, with customers responsible for their return flight, as well as accommodations in Las Vegas.

Interested gamblers can register at thed.com under its "Keep America Flying" banner. Recipients must be 21, the legal age to gamble in Las Vegas.

“As we begin to reopen our doors across the city, we are proud to help reinvigorate travel to Las Vegas while supporting airlines in America impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” Stevens said. “We can’t wait to safely bring visitors to the city and remind them why we’ve earned the title of ‘Entertainment Capital of the World.’ And while we’d love for visitors to stop by Downtown Las Vegas, we primarily want to get people back to Las Vegas to experience the attractions and amenities that make it one of the greatest places on Earth.”

Stevens said recipients of the free flights don't need to stay at one of his properties to be eligible, though, of course he'd prefer they did.

The flights start Wednesday and run through June 12.

The Detroit flights are Wednesday, Thursday and June 12; the Grand Rapids flight is June 11.

The COVID-19 shutdown has hit every sector of the economy hard, with the gaming industry no exception. Billions in revenues were lost throughout the country, with Las Vegas tourism down 97 percent in April compared to a year ago. An estimated 622,000 casino employees, at 989 sites, lost their jobs. That figure includes nearly 20,000 just in Michigan, which is seeing tribal casinos start to reopen, but might be a long ways off before the big three casinos in Detroit -- MGM Grand, Greektown and MotorCity -- open again.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984