Detroit's Permanent Casinos and Don Barden with Michael Jackson, Revisited . September 2002

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Detroit's Permanent Casinos and Don Barden with Michael Jackson, Revisited

It's been almost three years since Detroit opened its temporary casinos, after several heated debates by various groups to win an "in" on the three temporary casino licenses and the opportunity to provide Detroit residents and businesses an economic boost.  Three casino licenses were approved: MotorCity Casino, MGM Grand Detroit and Greektown Casino representing several local groups offering hope for economic and social rejuvenation to the area.  Several lawsuits ensued over selection of the three licenses, with one lawsuit finding the selection procedure unconstitutional.  There have been arguments on when and where the permanent casinos will be built (on or off the riverfront) and debates over why the amount of money originally promised to Detroit from the business venture had been drastically reduced.  To date, Detroit has somewhat benefited, however, now the future looks brighter.

Detroit City Council Approves Plans for Permanent Casinos

Fortunately, better late than never, on August 2, 2002, after 6 years of negotiations, the Detroit City Council approved the three permanent casino agreements negotiated by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick with construction to begin soon, however not a single casino will be built on the riverfront.   All three will open by January 2006 in time for the Super Bowl hosted by Detroit.  MotorCity Casino will expand at its current location off the Lodge Freeway and Grand River.  Greektown Casino will build just a few blocks from its temporary site and MGM Grand plans a $500-million casino at I-75 and the Lodge Freeway.  Each casino plans an attached 400-room high-rise hotel.

Don Barden and Michael Jackson Had a Good Idea

Don Barden, an influential Detroit businessman (once owner of Barden Cablevision in Detroit) was one of the casino license contenders who lost out, although his proposal may have been just what Detroit needed: a riverfront casino complex.  He bought in the entertainer Michael Jackson with plans for an amusement park (he named "Majestic Kingdom"), a hotel with restaurants, nightclubs and a casino on the riverfront.  And if he had his way, it would help rejuvenate Detroit.  Unfortunately, in the end, Don Barden lost his bid, voted down by the Detroit City Council, and in looking back, Detroit lost as well.  In my article in June 2000 (, I pointed out that Don Barden had a good idea, and in retrospect, with the past controversy and final location of the permanent casinos, Don Barden would have made a difference. But, that's just my opinion.  I'd like to hear what you think.  Send your comments via E-mail to

Howard Berenbon