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teddys
teddys
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March 28th, 2010 at 12:37:28 AM permalink
Detroit area casino reviews

NB: This entry is as complete as I can make it. If you have any comments, suggestions, or additions, feel free to add them below.

History: There are four full-service casinos in the Detroit area. All are within three miles of each other on both sides of the Detroit/Windsor international border. Three are on the American side, and one is on the Canadian side. MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino Hotel, and Motor City Hotel and Casino are the Detroit properties. Detroit is nobody's idea of a vacation destination, but it is a top-ten metropolitan area and has all the big city amenities you'd expect. At one time it was the fourth-largest city in the nation. The downtown is quite pleasant with some nice architecture and museums, but just outside of downtown you will run into some very decrepit, abandoned areas. It can be interesting if you wish to see the post-apocalyptic future of urban America. Caesars Windsor is right on the river in downtown Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is a smaller, more manageable city with a modicum of Canadian charm, but is not without its problems just like Detroit. Caesars Windsor (formerly Casino Windsor) was the first casino in the Detroit area back in 1995 and precipitated the casino boom in Detroit. Interestingly, the Detroit casino market has posted month-over-month revenue increases since casino gaming began in 1999. In that respect it is one of the healthiest gaming jurisdictions in the country.



General Features: Three out of the four Detroit casinos are as nice as anything you would find on the Las Vegas Strip. MGM Grand Detroit is comparable to Aria or Red Rock decor-wise. Greektown Casino is dumpy but in a fun way, similar to O'Sheas. They are in receivership after a lengthy bankruptcy and are being run by the Isle of Capri casino group. You will get the same experience here as you would on a Mississippi or Indiana riverboat. Motor City goes for the hip, modern vibe and tilts its marketing efforts towards the African-American consumer. They are the only locally-owned property. Caesars Windsor is owned by the Province of Ontario and is run with governmental efficiency. They are operated by Harrah's.

Hotels: The Detroit casinos each have their own 400-room hotel tower. Caesars has two hotel towers for a total of 740 rooms. I have stayed in all except MGM. Motor City has ultra-modern rooms with high-tech controls and amenities like a floor-to-ceiling armoire unit (similar to Bellagio) and soaking tubs. I would rate this hotel a 5-star for decor. There is a business center with three computers and free internet and printing. There are also self-serve check-in kiosks, so no waiting in line. I have seen rooms advertised for $129, which is a great value, in my opinion.

Greektown has a very nice hotel tower that is similar to the Palms with a very narrow architectural footprint. The rooms are very economically designed (space-wise, not $ wise), and are done in a Scandinavian style. I found the decor and layout to be very pleasing. The views are great and you can see into Comerica Field where the Tigers play. The bathrooms are small but the layout is intuitive, and is reminiscent of a fancy train compartment or deluxe airplane. There are no tubs, only showers. TV's are flat-screen, and there are coffee makers with to-go cups available. Greektown advertises their rooms at $99 a night but frequently offers them to players' club members at $69. I think this is a great value. There is no pool at Greektown, but there is a fitness room.

Caesars Windsor has two hotel towers. The newer tower is the Augustus tower, which was built in such a way that every room overlooks the river and the Detroit skyline. The rooms are designed in the grey/blue Caesars style. I find this look rather cold and un-cozy. Bathrooms have a separate tub/shower. Flat screen TVs, coffee makers and mini-fridges are provided. Also complimentary copies of the Windsor Star are available on every floor. The Forum tower is the older tower and is directly above the casino. Only half the rooms here overlook the river. Otherwise, everything available in the Augustus tower is available here. The pool/fitness room/sauna complex is located here. Rooms go for $100CDN at the minimum, often higher, which I think is expensive. There is a business center, but fees are charged for every service.

I have not stayed at the MGM but they command the highest prices in the Detroit area, regularly $200+ for a standard room. I hear their rooms are fantastic.



Food: MGM has the highest-end and greatest variety of in-house food options of the Detroit properties. However, all their restaurants are quite expensive and comps are hard to come by. Wolfgang Puck has a restaurant. Bourbon Steak is the steak house. Palette is a "dining studio" (read: buffet), and Breeze is an upscale food court. I have eaten at Breeze, and the food I got was great. I would say it is worth the price. There is an Asian station, an American station, and I think an Italian station among others. There is also a Starbucks on property, as well as numerous bars. The fabulous decor of the casino itself extends into the restaurants, and I would recommend checking them out for eye candy alone. The theme is Art Moderne which I don't think has been done before in any casino resort. (think Gotham City from the original "Batman" movie.)

Motor City's food options run from fair to middling. They should really upgrade their food options which are quite un-extensive for a casino resort with $35 million in monthly revenue. There is a Little Caesars pizza outlet (Motor City's owners also own the Little Caesars corporation), a short-order grill that serves hamburgers and sandwiches, and a small coffee stand. None of the outlets are open 24 hours and in fact many of them are closed at inopportune times. There are times when your options are limited to the grill only at certain mealtimes. There is also a sit-down deli called "Grand River Deli" which is open on weekends only and serves deli fare. I have not eaten there. There is a buffet, "Assembly Line," which I have also not tried. Prices run on the high side, $27 for dinner and less at lunch. There is also a fine dining restaurant called "Iridescence" which is located on the top floor of the hotel and is open weekends.

Greektown has one in-house restaurant, in the hotel, but will give you a comp ticket to any restaurant in the Greektown neighborhood. There are about twenty restaurants to choose from. I think this is a fantastic idea. You are not limited to staying on property and can take your pick from a multitude of Greek, Mexican, Italian and other restaurant options. I have yet to have a bad meal at any of the Greektown-affiliated restaurants. There is a Cold Stone Creamery on property, as well as a Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Your only choices in the casino itself are snack carts selling hot dogs and such, so for a sit-down meal you must go to the hotel or get a food chit for a partner restaurant. Greektown also has a buffet that costs $10/lunch and $15/dinner. I've heard it is substandard food.

Caesars Windsor has the usual suspects: Steak house, buffet, sports bar, Starbucks, coffee shop, and snack bar. They are all significantly overpriced but seem to do things well. You may use your Total Rewards card at parity in all food outlets except for Starbucks where they are redeemed at a 2-1 ratio. The buffet is $26 for dinner/$20 for lunch which includes PST and GST. The buffet is very good and is comparable to the Harrah's in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. They usually do not have shrimp or other high-end items, but I did get calamari the last time I was there. I am a big fan of their fried smelts.



Casinos MGM is the largest casino and has been the market leader since it opened. Its monthly revenue is in the $45m range. It offers the greatest amount of table games and slots, and I would say the best gaming atmosphere as well. The casino has high ceilings and can get stiflingly smoky at times, so I would warn against going if you are sensitive to smoke. (Motor City actually has the best ventilation system.) The crowd here is your white suburban type, although it is by no means limited to that demographic. There are four full-sized gaming pits, and a surfeit of slots laid out in a circular pattern around a center bar. Table games include Blackjack, Pai Gow Poker, Craps, 3-card, Carribean Stud, Spanish 21 (H17), Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, Double Exposure Blackjack(!), Baccarat, and Roulette. The baccarat tables are quite nice as they are the low Macau-style however you cannot handle the cards. Blackjack rules are eight-deck, H17, DAS, Re-split to four hands including aces. At $25 a hand you can get six-deck S17. Mimimums are $10 for craps with 3x4x5x odds. BJ is sometimes $10, usually $15. Everything else is $10/sometimes $15. The video poker selection is mostly absymal; nothing to recommend except 99.95% payback Pick 'Em Poker at the dollar level. Cashback is .167% on VP which is standard across all the Detroit properties. I can't speak to slots. Comps at MGM are discretionary with no rhyme or reason as to how they are meted out, which is standard for MGM properties. From my observations, however, they are extremely stingy. Do not expect anything unless you are a high roller. There is a high-limit room with $100 BJ, $50 midi-bacc, and single-zero roulette (sorry, I don't know the minimum for the roulette).

Motor City is the "hip" casino with an urban vibe. They play Motown/DJ music exclusively in the casino. They offer the same games and rules as MGM, except without some of the oddball games. You can always find a $10 blackjack table here. For some reason, Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em is wildly popular here and they sometimes have four or five tables open. They also deal Casino War. Craps is $10/3x4x5x. The best video poker game is 9/6 Jacks in quarters, but you have to hunt for it as it is only available as a single-line option on some of the multiline games. There may be other, better games available, but I haven't checked. From my observation, Motor City is generous with their comp dollars, and it is not hard to score a couple bucks for a meal after a minimal amount of play. However, their food options are so limited it is almost not worth it. They also have an overpriced gift shop where you can spend your comp dollars. Alcoholic beverages are not comped (nor are they anywhere in Detroit or Canada), nor may you use your comp dollars to purchase alcohol. There is a high limit rooms with identical games to MGM, but they also have a craps table.

Greektown is the "party" casino, and also has the most degenerates. It can be fun if you are in the right frame of mind. The casino is rather cramped and crowded, and the pits are laid out poorly. They spread all the usual games including Blackjack Switch (bad rules) and they have an actual craps tub! You must sit down while playing at the tub and only six players are allowed. It's a fun gambling experience. Craps are $10/3x4x5x. BJ is $15 mostly. The best video poker is NSUD at 99.72% payback in quarters and up. Comp dollars accumulate at about .2% of action, so it's not a bad gamble when you add in cashback. The high-limit room offers free drinks to players and has $25 minimum BJ with S17 rules, which is quite good for the player, at a .34% edge. All four casinos in the Detroit area have self-serve fountain beverages and coffee (not fresh-brewed; from concentrate).

Caesars Windsor is a smoke-free casino that tries hard to be classy but is more often boring. They deal all the usual games including Let it Ride and Spanish 21 (S17), as well as Mississippi Stud and a few other oddballs. Craps is $5 with 5x odds, and the table max goes to $50,000(!). Blackjack is $10/usually $15. Oddballs are $5. Video poker is not worth mentioning, unless you find 7/5 Jacks desirable. Harrah's Total Rewards program returns about .05% of action, which is stingy. However, Caesars Windsor is always offering some sort of promotion or giveaway of some sort which can be quite lucrative if you take advantage of them. Caesars Windsor is really hurting for business now that competition has increased and it is very possible to score free room offers with substantial low to middle level play. Only Canadian money is accepted at the tables and slots. The cage will change your money over to Canadian at a fair rate, but will take a substantial vig when you try to change it back to U.S.

Sorry, I can't comment on the poker at any of the casinos.



Other Stuff Valet parking is free at all four Detroit Casinos. Otherwise free self parking is available in a garage. A passport is required to cross into Canada and back again. The toll is $4 each way on the bridge or tunnel. Caesars Windsor and Motor City both have showrooms with touring entertainment. Caesars Windsor get the typical casino acts like Air Supply, Neil Sedaka, and other acts for the upper-middle aged/geriatric set. Motor City's Soundboard is an intimate venue which compares favorably with Pearl and The Joint in Las Vegas. I saw Steely Dan perform there and the acoustics were excellent. I was also able to get right up to the stage next to the performers, which was fantastic. Motor City also has a lounge with professional musical entertainment every day of the week. Many of these acts are really very good, like a Temptations knock-off or a British Invasion tribute band.
"Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe." -Rig Veda 10.34.4
pacomartin
pacomartin
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March 28th, 2010 at 1:34:00 AM permalink
MGM Detroit (MGMDT) made $514 million in CY2009 and $90 million in operating income. In terms of total revenue MGMDT exceeded 5 of their 9 Las Vegas strip casinos, and in terms of operating income exceeded 7 out of 9 (all but Bellagio and MGM GRAND). In terms of operating income as a percentage it also exceeded 7 out of 9 properties.

So it is a pretty healthy portion of the company.

With Steve Wynn moving into downtown Philadelphia there may be a move towards urban casinos around the country. With a destination resort as small as M Resort in Las Vegas costing $1 billion to construct, and I believe all of these urban casinos costing much less the choice seems brainless. As long as enough states keep changing their laws.
Wizard
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Wizard
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March 28th, 2010 at 5:49:25 AM permalink
Nice post, thanks. My one and only trip to Detroit was in 1989, before they allowed casinos there, so I can't comment. I'm quoting your whole post, less the pictures, because I had to horizontally scroll to read it. I'll let JB know about it.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
OneAngryDwarf
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March 29th, 2010 at 2:34:08 PM permalink
Good reviews, thanks a lot. Was thinking of posting some myself but these are much better than I could do, especially since I've never stayed in any of the hotels.

You are right that MGM has several oddball Blackjack variants, including Double Exposure. They also recently added Blackjack Switch, dealt from an actual shoe, which is nice (Greektown's uses a constant shuffle machine). Another game I noticed there that I've never seen or heard of before called "Two-Way Monte." The dealer basically explained that it was kind of like 3-Card Poker, except that the player gets two 3-card hands and can bet on either one to win. I had already done well at the craps table though, and didn't really feel like playing a high-edge carny game so I didn't try it out. Anyone else have more info on this game?

Also, I like the fact that Motor City's Blackjack tables have no sucker sidebets on the layout, even on the low-limit tables. Take heed, though, that the one $10 game you mentioned is usually dealt from a CSM.
"I believe I've passed the age/of consciousness and righteous rage/I've found that just surviving was a noble fight... I once believed in causes too/I had my pointless point of view/And life went on no matter who was wrong or right..." --Billy Joel
makeshots22
makeshots22
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May 6th, 2010 at 7:51:54 PM permalink
Has anyone ever seen a $5 craps table at any Detroit casino?
rudeboyoi
rudeboyoi
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May 6th, 2010 at 8:54:42 PM permalink
i never heard of a craps table being in a highlimit room. thats kind of interesting.
teddys
teddys
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May 6th, 2010 at 9:30:49 PM permalink
Quote: makeshots22

Has anyone ever seen a $5 craps table at any Detroit casino?



Never. You can only find them at Caesars Windsor. This is not likely to change.
"Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe." -Rig Veda 10.34.4
makeshots22
makeshots22
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May 6th, 2010 at 9:45:36 PM permalink
Quote: teddys

Never. You can only find them at Caesars Windsor. This is not likely to change.



Why not? Just supply and demand?
Tiltpoul
Tiltpoul
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May 6th, 2010 at 9:46:39 PM permalink
Quote:

Another game I noticed there that I've never seen or heard of before called "Two-Way Monte." The dealer basically explained that it was kind of like 3-Card Poker, except that the player gets two 3-card hands and can bet on either one to win. I had already done well at the craps table though, and didn't really feel like playing a high-edge carny game so I didn't try it out. Anyone else have more info on this game?




This is perhaps the CRAZIEST game I have EVER seen (and I study games like there's no tomorrow!) Here are the rules in a nutshell. First the layout...

Picture Four Card Poker... There's an Ante bet, and a Play bet, which you can bet 1-3x the Ante after seeing your hand. Up on the top, there is a "Low Hand bonus". This gets paid if your low hand has a pair or better.

So the player gets 6 cards; from that, the player must create two three-card hands: a high hand and low hand, where the high hand must beat the low hand. The rules follow standard 3-card rules, that is a straight beats a flush, etc.

After separating the two hands, the player must decide if they want to stay in. If they choose to, they must bet AT LEAST 1x the Ante bet; however, if they like the strength of the hand, they can bet up to 3x.

The dealer then exposes his hand, which has 4 cards, to make the best three card hand. At this point, both the player's low hand AND high hand MUST BEAT the dealer. If not, the player loses the Ante and Play. The dealer always qualifies.

Bonus payouts on the Low Hand Bonus are paid regardless of the outcome. If the low hand has a pair or better, it gets paid odds... (this is from memory so I could be wrong here). Pair=1-1, Flush=4-1 (?), Straight= 10-1, Trips = 100-1, Straight Flush= 200-1. The Ante also pays a bonus, paid regardless, on Straights or better, but I don't remember the payouts at all. Basically, it's REALLY hard to hit anything higher than a pair on that bonus.

Crazy game... I'm curious about the odds on it. MGM Grand Detroit is the only casino that offers the game, and they nearly always offer it at 5 dollar min.

BTW, Kudos to MGM Grand Detroit for offering Ultimate Texas Hold'Em at the optimal Trips payout. Motor City offers the standard 8-6-5, while Greektown offers the less than desirable 8-7-4.
"One out of every four people are [morons]"- Kyle, South Park
OneAngryDwarf
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May 7th, 2010 at 1:03:39 AM permalink
Actually, and I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence or mere happenstance--I did encounter a $5 craps game at Greektown in the *very* early morning. Once 9AM or so rolled around, though, it promptly became $10.
"I believe I've passed the age/of consciousness and righteous rage/I've found that just surviving was a noble fight... I once believed in causes too/I had my pointless point of view/And life went on no matter who was wrong or right..." --Billy Joel

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