Greektown Casino

GreektownCasinoFinalGreektown is one of three casinos that were built in Detroit recently, the plan being to attract tourism and create jobs that way.  The other new casinos are MGM Grand and Motor City Casino; they all opened up in the last decade.

I’m a little confused about what the economic value of casinos for a city is supposed to be.  It creates jobs, indeed, but they tend to be crappy jobs.  My Mom’s hometown of Dubuque, IA, which used to produce lots of tractors and other farm equipment for John Deere, also brought in casino gambling in the recent past.

To me, bringing in casinos is the most desperate scheme, most pathetic admission of total civic defeat, the most scandalous desecration of a city culture imaginable.  

Making matters worse, Greektown filed for bankruptcy in May 2008, while it was still in the middle of constructing the vast hotel, casino, and parking structure facilities that it opened up in November 2008.  

When you examine statements made to the press by folks involved in arranging the Greektown bankruptcy filing and the new, extended line of credit that it needed to finish the construction and open the casino thereafter, you can tell that there was and is something shady going on.  The reason is because, despite all the appearance of disaster and massive waste, everyone insists that the situation is going better than ever:

This is from an article that appeared on ClickonDetroit.com, May 30, 2008 (“the Associated Press contributed to this report”):

“ ‘It’s really one of the oddest, but one of the best cases I’ve ever seen in my career,’ said [Greektown Bankruptcy Advisor Van] Conway. ‘We’ve arranged for the financing. Construction is going to carry on. It will be completed and we’re going to open up the new casino and the customers are not going to see anything. And everybody will be paid in full.’

“While at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said, ‘I think we’ll be fine from the city of Detroit perspective and I’m hopeful they can continue reconstruction and come out of this debt situation better.’ ”

We were told about Greektown by a man who worked at Hitsville, the former Motown Records recording facility that is now home to the Motown Museum on W. Grand Blvd.  He asked us where we were going, we told him we wanted to get some dinner, and he recommended that we attend Greektown because they have a happy hour from 5 to 7 in which all drinks cost $2 and a buffet that only costs $9.99.

 

Peter stands in front of the entrance to Greektown Casino.

Peter stands in front of the entrance to Greektown Casino.

We told the security guard that we wanted to go the Happy Hour, and she directed us to Eclipz Lounge.  But first, she demanded to see my ID, but not that of Peter.  It’s interesting, because Peter is four years younger than I am.  I had left my ID in Peter’s rental car, so we needed to go back out to where the car was parked, unlock the car, get my ID, then go back in and show it to the security guard before she would let us proceed up an escalator and past a long bank of slot machines and craps tables to Eclipz.

Eclipz Lounge at Greektown Casino.  The TV in the background, in addition to another TV not pictured, plays the Fox News Network at all times for some reason.

Eclipz Lounge at Greektown Casino. The TV in the background, in addition to another TV not pictured, plays the Fox News Network at all times for some reason.

 

 When we arrived, we had only gotten through a single round before we saw him again, striding into Eclipz Lounge swinging his arms at his sides with a triumphant look, as though he had just awakened from a coma.  

I speculated that he was being paid by Greektown Casino to direct Motown Museum tourists to the Casino with the promise of cheap drinks and an International Buffet that is affordable for almost any budget.

This man, in the white shirt and black vest, recommended that we come to Eclipz Lounge Happy Hour at Greektown Casino when we spoke to him at the Motown Museum.

This man, in the white shirt and black vest, recommended that we come to Eclipz Lounge Happy Hour at Greektown Casino when we spoke to him at the Motown Museum.

I don’t have a lot of regard for gambling.  I’ve never seen the point.  It’s possible that I’m just cheap, but I don’t think that’s the problem–hardly anyone else I’ve ever met is especially partial to casinos.  This leads me to conclude that casino gambling is a major pastime for particular portions of the country, but not for others, as delineated by a combination of geography, class, ideology, and fashion sense.

 

I had an experience in Las Vegas, for example, that gave me the impression that casinos are more of a Republican proclivity than otherwise.  I was only in Vegas for one night, I was with my parents, and the three of us determined that we ought to see a show of some kind as long we we were there.  I lobbied hard for Wayne Newton, succeeded, and my parents bought me a ticket to see Wayne Newton.  They came, too.

Wayne joked around a lot with the members of his band.  One of them, he goofed on a lot, and then dismissed him as “The Democrat in the orchestra,” which gave rise to a surfeit of laughter from the mostly white, elderly crowd.

The crowd seemed to find Wayne’s remark about “the Democrat in the orchestra” so hilarious, so absolutely sidesplitting, that I wanted to join in the fun, so I stared hard at three or four of the hundreds of blatant combover attempts by 90% bald old white men in the room.  I erupted in gales of feverish laughter soon enough.

If indeed a fondness for casino gambling is one of the characteristics that distinguishes “Red America” from “Blue America,” that would explain why the bar at Eclipz Lounge had two TV’s that appeared to be permanently set to Fox News.

But I think a more important factor to consider is that a casino operates as a shrine to money.  The slot machines have titles like “Palace of Riches” and “Oracle of Mammon” (OK, I made that one up, but not the first one) and the big halls where the games are situated constantly resonate with a high-pitched hum that sounds like every one of your brain cells singing before they burn down during a 30-second trip on nitrous oxide.  Whether the sounds come from the sum of all the machines operating together, are pumped in through hidden speakers, or reflect some combination of the two, is impossible to determine.

I’m sorry I don’t have more specific information about the contents of Greektown and how they work, by the way, but the Casino strictly forbids any photography.

One picture of gamers living the high life at Greektown Casino, which I was able to obtain surreptitiously.

One picture of gamers living the high life at Greektown Casino, which I was able to obtain surreptitiously.

The Casino appears to offer the hope of a magical place, not unlike an ancient oracle, where visitors through no real effort of their own can see all of their problems disappear in seconds.  Should luck, karma, or God Himself prove in that decisive moment to be on the gambler’s side, then they will be transported out of the pain and difficulty of their own lives once and for all.  And if this does not happen, then, at least they were able to live the fantasy for a handful of sweet hours.

So, if there’s a reason why Republicans like casino gambling more than the other parts of the political spectrum, I think it is because the enjoyment of casino gambling requires that the gambler believe that our economic system is infused on some level with magic.  If you do not actually think, somewhere in the web of associations, connotations, preconceptions, prejudices, and clichés that make up your imagination, that there are actual gods pulling the strings of the capitalist system, then casinos would probably be tedious for you.

This kind of high-level social analysis tends to work up an appetite, so after Happy Hour concluded at Eclipz we headed for the International Buffet, which billboards by the sides of all the major freeways in the Detroit area advertise as costing only $9.99.

Or, rather, I headed there, with Peter reluctantly in tow.  He didn’t want to do it; in fact, he wanted to leave and get Louisianan food at a place on the East Side.

I asked Peter what his problem was, and he explained that he felt extremely depressed by the Casino.  The sight of all these people throwing their money away on the prospect of instant wealth, and what’s more all the religious and erotic ways that the Casino fetishizes that notion, filled him with sadness.  Peter confessed apologetically to being somewhat of a paternalist–he thought that someone with superior education and knowledge, who knows better, should intervene and stop these people from wasting their money and their lives on nothing.

Rather than acquiesce to Peter’s sadness, however, I–a person of greater education and knowledge even than Peter himself–intervened and insisted that we enter the International Buffet.  To sweeten the deal, I picked up $5 of the International Buffet’s $9.99 (not including tax) entrance fee for Peter.

A busy dinner rush at the Greektown Casino International Buffet ($9.99).

A busy dinner rush at the Greektown Casino International Buffet ($9.99).

The nations in the International Buffet are American, Greek, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.  I was able to get away with snapping photos of the Buffet for a brief period before I was stopped:

"Mexican"

"Mexican"

 

"Asian"

"Asian"

 

In its own way, the International Buffet has very high security.  When you enter the International Buffet, they give you a receipt.  I was not told that you needed to show the receipt to an attendant in order to be seated at one of the tables, and when I looked for the receipt in my pockets, I couldn’t find it.  I became somewhat testy with the man who wanted to see my receipt, and then walked away so I could get a replacement receipt from the woman who was operating the cash register at the entrance to the International Buffet.  

A somewhat portly, ruddy-faced, mustachioed man sitting nearby told me, as I walked away from the Greektown employee, that, “He wants to see the receipt,” apparently because I looked like I did not understand what was going on.

An unsatisfied customer.  Despite his uncharacteristically non-saucy meal at the International Buffet, consisting of a piece of ham, some rice, and a few vegetables, Peter found the experience alienating and disturbing and the food disgusting.

An unsatisfied customer. Despite his uncharacteristically non-saucy meal at the International Buffet, consisting of a piece of ham, some rice, and a few vegetables, Peter found the experience alienating and disturbing and the food disgusting.

The cuisine at Greektown was not bad.  Peter told me it looked absolutely disgusting, and continued to behave in a glum fashion during our meal.  I sampled all of the different nationalities, and found Greek to be the best–it was pretty much the same as the saucy pasta in the Italian fare section, but spicier and with feta cheese–and the worst to be Mexican.  The guacamole did a weird thing, in which it appeared to expand inside my mouth, like I was being shot in the mouth with a whipped cream canister full of guacamole rather than whipped cream.

As we left, we took a wrong turn and ended up going out through the V.I.P. Entrance.  Peter continued to fume about the very idea of Greektown Casino, and I didn’t disagree, but I was also somewhat impressed that customers were at least showing up for it.  For Detroit, that seemed like progress.

The question is, are casinos a dead end for a poor city, or can they contribute, albeit indirectly, to the success of something more wholesome and substantial.  I’m pretty sure the answer there is no.

 

"VIP Casino"

"VIP Casino"

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~ by electrorefutedrobo on August 24, 2009.

One Response to “Greektown Casino”

  1. I think the idea of casinos, and gambling in general, to be Republican-slanted is pretty misguided–that’s like saying Republicans love money and Democrats hold it in complete indifference, or even disdain. Everybody loves money. Sometimes people get addicted to money-winning games. I believe the Simpsons episode of when Marge takes on the slots proves this point pretty well…

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