Despite City Council approval of the mayor's casino plan, the city's bid to become the largest in the country to have legalized gambling isn't a sure bet yet.
The $1.8 billion plan approved Thursday still could be thwarted if it doesn't win state approval."This is not over yet," said Don Barden, a black Detroit businessman whose casino proposal was rejected by Mayor Dennis Archer. "This is just a first phase. We could be back to square one in a number of months."
The plan was approved despite criticism that none of the three casino franchises were awarded to blacks in a city that is 80 percent black.
Herb Strather, chairman of a partnership that includes Las Vegas-based Circus, which won one of the three franchises, said he hopes the issue of black ownership can be put to rest.
"Let this also be a day we can begin the healing," Strather said. "The community is divided now. It's time we come together for the benefit of everybody. There are a lot of opportunities and people should seize this moment."
MGM Grand and Greektown/Chippewa Indians also were awarded franchises.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board could act within four to six months, paving the way for temporary casinos to open as early as the end of the year. Permanent casinos would follow two to three years later.
Archer said the new casinos would create 11,000 permanent full-time jobs and bring in $130 million in gambling taxes and $50 million in property taxes a year, he said.
"This is a very, very important step that is going to make a big difference for the city of Detroit," Archer said.
Supporters say gambling would give a boost to a city that has lost nearly half its population and more than half its jobs since the late 1950s.
But councilman Nicholas Hood III voted against the casinos because of their location. "It doesn't have any economic spinoff for the downtown," he said of the riverfront site.
Area residents expressed mixed views.
"It truly is the right thing for the city," said Brian McDonald, manager of the Soup Kitchen Saloon in the riverfront district. "It will bring a lot of revenue and physical improvements."
Harry Howes of Huntington Woods said he is against gambling but has resigned himself to the idea that casinos are coming.
"Gambling is not smart for Detroit," Howes said. "Millions of dollars are being spent across the river on gambling, not on things like cars and food. Gamblers won't be able to afford to buy stuff in Detroit."