Casino Windsor opened its temporary structure in 1994, drawing huge numbers of Metro Detroiters across the river. Detroit took notice, and, after prolonged consideration, voters approved three casinos for the city. While temporary casinos opened in 1999 and 2000, owners were required to build permanent casino/hotel complexes within the decade. The initial plan was to cluster them at the riverfront. When this proved too complicated, the three casinos made plans at or near their temporary sites.
Casino Windsor first opened in 1994 to overflowing crowds. A permanent casino followed in 1998 and has been continually successful. With several permanent casino/hotel complexes planned for Detroit, a $400 million expansion was announced in 2005 that included an additional 400-room hotel tower.
Casino Windsor became Caesars Windsor in 2008 when its expansion was unveiled. It has the advantage of a legal gambling/drinking age of 19 and sports betting. Disadvantages include a 2006 Ontario smoking ban, the falling value of the American dollar and a passport requirement at the border.
The Greektown Casino complex has evolved over time in the thriving Greektown neighborhood of Detroit. The casino itself is located on the People Mover route in what was once a multiple-floor, indoor mall known as "Trapper's Alley." In addition to the Athenian -- a nearby, unaffiliated hotel -- the 30-story, 400-room Greektown Casino-Hotel opened in mid-February of 2009. The hotel and parking structure are connected to the casino via a skyway over Monroe Avenue. Recent road work in the area makes the complex easily accessible off of I-375.
The MGM Grand is consistently the revenue leader of the three downtown Detroit casinos. Name recognition may be a factor, but its temporary location (in the former Federal Building) near area freeways was also a benefit. Its permanent location was built just a few blocks away, but better reflects its parent company's commitment to elegance and majesty. The MGM casino is spacious and "grand," lacking the level of smoke that seems to relentlessly hover at its competitors' casinos. The MGM, however, also lacks the signature design elements of the MotorCity and the ethnic identity of the Greektown neighborhood.
MotorCity's casino is housed in the former Wonder Bread Factory, located just outside the downtown area in a relatively isolated section. Even so, the temporary casino's revenue approached that of MGM's most months. When it came time to build its permanent complex, MotorCity chose to expand on and redesign its existing site.
With its future-retro design, MotorCity arguably has the most style and flair of the three Detroit casino/hotels. Its location, however, continues to work to its disadvantage, as does its multiple-floor casino; while gaming space has been added with lofty ceilings and signature design elements, other areas of the casino suffer in comparison with smoky, low-ceiling rooms.
Owned and operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the resort has a hotel, casino, restaurants, arcade and concert hall. It also has a gambling age of 18, which has been known to draw a fair number of 18-year-olds from the Metro-Detroit area.