It was billed as the beginning of a new era and true to that prediction, since opening on July 29,1999, MGM Grand Detroit has been a catalyst in redefining the city as a regional and national entertainment destination.
But along with its promise to provide “the ultimate entertainment experience,” MGM Grand Detroit also pledged to become a major part of the community. And part of the casino’s community involvement includes MGM Grand Detroit’s recently launched Policy Action Team.
The chief objective of the 110-member group is to ensure the casino’s voice is heard on gaming-related issues that impact the region.
“There may be a perception that our team members are just here raking in dollars, but we want our community and our elected officials to know that we’re not slot machines, we’re human beings,” said Juliette Okotie-Eboh, senior vice president of Public Affairs at MGM Grand Detroit.
“We want the community to truly know who we are. MGM Grand Detroit team members are taxpayers interested in the life and future of this city and we also are citizens who know the issues.”
MGM Grand Detroit has become one of southeast Michigan’s largest employers, with 3,000 team members who support their families with an average salary of $50,000 plus full benefits. At the same time, while the region has suffered through the decline of the automobile industry, MGM Grand Detroit has pumped nearly $1.3 billion into the local economy.
“The casino industry has become Detroit’s chief export service, and MGM is a big part of that,” said David Littmann, senior economist with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Despite heavy taxation and regulation, the casinos have remained a positive revenue source for the city and a steady employer through a challenging economic period.”
Renee Monforton, spokesperson for the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, shares a similar view: “The Detroit casinos have been a positive addition to Detroit’s tourism landscape because they’ve served to round out our entertainment offerings so that we have a wide array of unique experiences to offer visitors.
“The casino properties have also provided us with 1,200 new hotel rooms that allow us to compete for larger convention groups we couldn’t accommodate before so the additional economic impact potential is enormous.”
And because the future viability of Detroit’s casinos and the local economy are so closely linked, members of MGM Grand Detroit’s Policy Action Team say they look upon themselves as advocates for the region’s economy.
“I don’t want to be looking for a job at 62. I am very concerned about job security just like people at the Big Three,” said Trudence Marchetti, a table game dealer. “I am concerned about the issue of more gaming in the area and the impact it will have on retaining jobs at MGM. I just wanted to get involved and see what I can do to help.”
Among the hot topics for Policy Action Team members are proposed casinos and instant horse race wagering at Michigan racetracks. To stay informed of the issues, team members receive regular policy updates and are made aware of opportunities to proactively express their concerns including letter writing, telephone calls, e-mail, and meetings with elected officials.
“I wrote a letter to a congressman about gaming licenses,” said Roderick Wright, a massage therapist at MGM Grand Detroit, who has been active with the Policy Action Team for two months. “I was a little politically active in the past, but the team has made me more active and aware.”
Ultimately, as Wright and his mates express their views and do their part to preserve casino jobs, they are also ensuring that MGM Grand Detroit is able to remain a leading corporate citizen—part of the promise made to the community roughly a decade ago.
Today, MGM Grand Detroit supports more than 400 community and civic organizations annually through corporate sponsorships, and has contributed more than $1.4 million to charities throughout the region through the employee-based MGM Mirage Voice Foundation.
“We’ve given wonderful opportunities to the community,” said Karen Brookstein, assistant vice president of Player Marketing for MGM Grand Detroit. “Everything we have committed to do, we have done.”