Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect PlayMichigan’s position.
As Regina George famously said in the Oscar-winning “Mean Girls”, “You’re not going to make Hollywood Casino at Greektown happen.”
Perhaps I’m misremembering some of those details, but the broader point stands.
Greektown Casino-Hotel will be known as Hollywood Casino at Greektown starting on May 1.
Well, that’s what it will read on the signs, in the press releases and news reports.
The rest of us, whether we’re going there to gamble, stay in the hotel or simply park before getting a bite to eat and heading to the Tigers’ game, will just call it Greektown. That’s what it’s always been, and it’s going to continue to be, because that’s how we do things in Michigan.
Just ask DTE Energy, which took over the naming rights of Pine Knob Music Theatre in 2001. After 20 years of people just calling it Pine Knob, the name officially reverted to the original this past January.
So why? I mean, I know why. But WHY?
Hollywood Casino is Penn National’s casino brand
Greektown has been owned by Penn National Gaming and Vici Properties since 2019. That’s why the retail and online sportsbooks carry the Barstool name.
Hollywood Casino is Penn’s casino brand, so this certainly makes sense in that regard, and it isn’t out of the blue.
The re-branding is also coming with a series of improvements to the facility and gaming experience totaling more than $100 million.
I don’t want it to seem as if I’m poo-pooing that at all. It’s awesome that Penn National believed enough in the Detroit market in the first place, and I love that it’s continuing to put money into making it a success.
All of that is more important than a name change.
I still hate it.
Hollywood and Detroit don’t mix
While my opinion wasn’t included in the analysis on changing the name, I have to wonder if there was any done at all.
Slapping the name “Hollywood Casino” onto a well-known building in a historic, cultural neighborhood in Detroit doesn’t seem like a winning idea.
Detroit is very much the anti-Hollywood, and proud of it. Detroit’s identity is rooted in the culture of blue collar workers and being the underdogs who have to overcome the glitz and glam types you associate with Hollywood.
Hell, one of our greatest sporting accomplishments was when the Bad Boy Pistons were created in Detroit’s image to take down the Showtime Lakers. And if you didn’t get the message, the Goin’ To Work Pistons did it again in 2004.
Hollywood Casino also takes away the uniqueness of the Greektown name. There are 14 Hollywood Casinos currently operating, including one in Toledo.
By the way, Toledo is less than an hour’s drive from Detroit. One can easily imagine two Downriver friends making plans to meet at “Hollywood” and driving in opposite directions to two casinos in two different states.
Will the name change bankrupt the casino? Of course it won’t, not even close.
The foot traffic in Greektown, combined with the easy access on and off the freeway, could sustain that place forever. Plus, there are certainly loyal customers and the majority of people could care less what name is on the outside, as long as the slot machines are paying out on the inside.
Is Barstool working for Greektown?
The retail sportsbook – which carries the Barstool name, but is within the current Greektown Casino – is doing incredibly well.
It brought in more than $51.9 million in sports wagers in the first three months of 2022, which is 59.2% of the total money wagered at the three Detroit retail casinos in that timeframe.
Now, what impact the name has on that is up for debate. Barstool’s online sportsbook is fifth in online handle in 2022, and well behind the top three of FanDuel Sportsbook MI, DraftKings Sportsbook MI and BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook.
Retail betting accounts for 4% of Motor City Casino and FanDuel’s combined handle in 2022, and 5.7% of combined handle at MGM Detroit and its online brand.
For Greektown/Barstool, retail betting accounts for 32% of the total.
That’s a pretty strong indication that the Greektown name on the outside of the building, and the neighborhood itself, is driving a lot of the traffic.
We can still just call it Greektown
You’d be correct to point out that Pine Knob didn’t suffer for 20 years because DTE Energy was at the front of the name.
Of course, Pine Knob didn’t have two other venues with the same bands playing on the same night. Plus, people still just called it Pine Knob.
The latter could work for Greektown, too, as I don’t see a lot of Detroiters calling it Hollywood Casino in casual conversation.
Where the former could hurt is the casual downtown visitor who is now faced with a choice between Motor City, MGM Detroit or Hollywood Casino.
Which one do you think the Michigan resident or returning Michigan native is going to choose based on the name? Or, perhaps more importantly, which one are they most likely to eliminate?
This project? Great. The investment in a centerpiece of the city? Fantastic.
But save the money on new marketing materials, logos and signage and leave the Greektown name.
It’s a proven commodity, and what we’re all going to call it anyway.