With business booming, Detroit’s three casinos pulled in a combined $368 million in April, May and June of 2019.
But in 2020 the doors to those casinos have been closed throughout all three of those months because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Michigan has gained $0 this year after March.
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Detroit casinos have fallen far behind in revenue during the coronavirus, which forced them to shut down March 16. The MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown remain closed under Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s phased-in safety plan.
As a result, the drop in Michigan casino revenue through the first six months of this year, as revealed in numbers reported by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, has been stark. Through June, the Detroit casinos had produced just over $299 million in combined revenue, as opposed to more than $733 million in the first six months of 2019, a 59% plummet. Michigan legal sports betting launched on March 11 and that should have led to even more revenue for the state.
Except COVID-19 began shutting down major American sports that very day.
The economic pain is being felt across the board. MGM Grand has brought in $126 million so far in 2020, as opposed to $313 million over the first six months of 2019. MotorCity has generated $102 million in 2020 compared to $247 million through June 2019. Greektown has pulled in $70 million in 2020, well off the $196 million after the first half of last year.
Even the city is hurting — Detroit has collected $5.6 million in wagering taxes from its three casinos thus far in 2020, compared to $86 million through June of last year. That’s a substantial blow for a municipality that uses casino tax revenue to fund schools and has collected $2.2 billion in casino tax revenue over the past two decades.
Some Michigan tribal casinos have reopened, but there is still no date set for when Michigan’s commercial casinos will welcome visitors again. Even when they reopen, the Detroit casinos will be permitted to operate only at 15% capacity, according to minimum safety guidelines released in June by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
The onset of COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn have scuttled what initially promised to be a record-breaking year for Detroit casinos. In 2019, the MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown combined to generate $1.45 billion in adjusted gross revenue, edging the previous year's record of $1.44 billion.
Through February of 2020, the casinos had combined to pull in more than $221 million, well above record pace. The debut of legalized in-person sports betting likely would have seen the state easily break its monthly handle record. March is historically the city’s highest-grossing month for casinos, and the prospect of NCAA Tournament betting in 2020 promised to make it bigger than ever.
On March 11, the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. College basketball and other sports quickly followed suit, postponing or cancelling their seasons within days. It was the beginning of a long dark period for sports, sports betting and casinos. The three Detroit casinos continue to suffer through that darkness today and Michigan revenue numbers continue to reflect that.