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Detroit Casino Deadline Tightens

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Downtown casino deadline tightens

Mayor seeking ways to speed approval process

December 4, 2003



The green light for Detroit's three casinos to build permanent homes may be much further away than Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has said.

There are numerous hurdles each casino faces before it can put shovels in the ground.

MotorCity Casino still hasn't finished its plans and needs a public hearing and City Council approvals. Greektown Casino faces political problems that could continue to hold up final council approval of its plans. And all three casinos are still under a federal injunction that could take weeks to lift.

Kilpatrick wants the Detroit City Council to hold a special session this month to approve plans for permanent casinos so they can begin construction. But a special session might not speed the process much.

A request is expected to be filed today with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to lift the injunction the court ordered in September 2002 preventing construction of the casinos.

But attorneys said it's impossible to know how quickly the court will act. The court could lift the injunction itself or send the case back to the federal court in Grand Rapids.

But the city's request only covers two casinos.

Because MGM Grand Detroit Casino wasn't part of last week's legal settlement with the Lac Vieux tribe, the city won't ask for the injunction against MGM to be lifted. The casino's attorneys will make that request themselves, and they may ask that no injunctions be lifted unless all three are lifted together.

Kilpatrick announced Nov. 25 that the 7-year-old lawsuit by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians over the city's casino ordinance had been settled.

However, only two of the three casinos, MotorCity and Greektown Casinos, agreed to settle, paying $79 million to the tribe. MGM Grand Detroit Casino did not settle because it says it should not be part of the lawsuit. Unlike the other two, it did not receive a preference for a casino license. The federal courts have ruled the preferences were unconstitutional.

The day after the settlement, the council held its last meeting of the year and did not act on zoning for the new Greektown Casino. Before recessing until Jan. 5, the council set a Jan. 23 public hearing for MotorCity's new casino. The public hearing must be held before council can vote on the zoning.

Kilpatrick told the Free Press he would ask council members to reconvene for a special session on casinos. The mayor is concerned that waiting until January will slow construction on the casinos, which are already on a tight schedule to open by the 2006 Super Bowl.

Some council members are irked that the mayor waited until their recess to mention a special session.

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The city council is done meeting for the year, so the zoning changes cannot take place until next year. Additionally, construction cannot being until the injunctions are lifted by the federal courts. The casinos are eager to get started on the hotels...with each passing day that construction does not begin, the less likely it is that the hotel towers will be done by the Super Bowl. It would be awful if these hotels or the Book-Cadillac renovation weren't completed until after the Super Bowl.

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