Detroit Retail Casinos Each Received $5 Million In Growing MI Business COVID Relief Program

Written By Drew Ellis on October 26, 2022

The Michigan Department of Treasury released a report last month on the Growing MI Business Grant Program.

The program was designed to help businesses impacted by COVID-related shutdowns during the pandemic. It was paid for with money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Of the businesses that were given relief, Detroit’s three retail casinos received the most.

Each of the three received $5 million, the maximum award possible, which was more than double any other business.

How much money was awarded by Growing MI Business program?

A total of $409 million was appropriated for the program, with 8,329 businesses applying for approximately $130 million worth of aid.

Of the applicants, 2,981 received awards, totaling $117.3 million. A total of 5,333 did not received any aid while 15 withdrew or declined their award.

The awards varied from as low as $2 to as high as $5 million.

The $5 million was issued to Detroit Entertainment LLC, Greektown Casino LLC and MGM Grand LLC.

Those represent the operators of MotorCity Casino Hotel, Hollywood Casino at Greektown and the MGM Grand Detroit.

The $5 million award was the maximum allowed under the law which was enacted by the legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Awarded funds were used to:

  • Hire additional staff to fill open positions
  • Renovate or expand their business
  • Improve operations as they emerged out of the pandemic

Why did the Detroit casinos get the most COVID relief money?

To be eligible for any of the funds from the Growing MI Business Grant Program, businesses had to be in operation before Oct. 1, 2019.

Businesses deemed to be significantly hurt by the COVID shutdowns were eligible.

To qualify, businesses had to show a total sales decline of at least 5 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. Included in the total sales were any funds received through the Paycheck Protection Program.

The awards were capped at a business’ financial hardship, or $5 million, whichever was less.

The determination of the financial hardship was a combination of:

  • 2020 property taxes
  • 17 percent of annual lease costs (if the business paid rent)
  • 50 percent of its unemployment insurance taxes
  • Liquor license fees
  • Other state license and inspection fees

Retail casinos heavily impacted by pandemic nationwide

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the casino industry across the country.

According to the American Gaming Association, an estimated 616,000 casino gaming employees were unable to work.

The shutdown led to $105 billion in lost economic activities and cost states more than $2 billion in lost gaming taxes.

U.S. commercial casinos lost a cumulative 45,600 business days in 2020 because of the pandemic. The nationwide industry saw a 31% decline in revenue from 2019.

In Michigan, overall tax revenue from the three Detroit casinos was down 59.4% through the first half of 2020 when compared to the same time frame in 2019.

Casinos were shut down on March 16, 2020, and reopened on Aug. 5 at 15 percent occupancy level.

What other businesses received aid

Under the Growing MI Business Grant Program, nine business types were eligible to apply:

  • Entertainment venues
  • Recreational facilities and public places of amusement
  • Barbers and cosmetologists
  • Exercise facilities
  • Food service establishments
  • Nursery dealers and growers
  • Athletic trainers
  • Body art facilities
  • Hotels and bed & breakfast establishments

According to the Michigan Department of Treasury’s report, businesses in all 83 Michigan counties entered applications for aid.

Outside of the $5 million awards given to the three Detroit casinos, the largest award was $2.4 million to the Amway Hotel Corp.

The food service establishments received the most total awards at 1,364. Entertainment venues received a total of 175 awards.

Wayne County received 471 awards for a total of $32,945,202. No county in Michigan was awarded more money. Only Oakland County received more total awards at 615 for $19,214,952.

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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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