Greektown Casino sale to Penn National approved, will happen Thursday

by Administrator

Michigan regulators gave final approval Tuesday for the $1 billion sale of Dan Gilbert's Greektown Casino-Hotel, set to happen later this week.

Four members of the Michigan Gaming Control Board voted unanimously in favor of the sale, first announced in November, by Gilbert's Jack Entertainment to two casino-related firms: casino operator Penn National Gaming and a real estate investment trust VICI Properties.

The all-cash deal is scheduled to close early Thursday morning, said Penn National Gaming CEO Timothy Wilmott, who attended the control board meeting.

“This is the final step in the approval process," Wilmott said. "We’ve already obtained approvals from the city of Detroit and also the Federal Trade Commission.”

Penn National is the nation's largest operator of regional-draw casinos with 41 properties. Casino ownership swap could mean perks for gamblers

Under the deal, Penn National will acquire operations of Greektown Casino-Hotel in downtown Detroit for $300 million and VICI will buy the casino property's real estate for $700 million.

The Free Press reported last fall that Greektown casino property carried about $400 million in debt.

Wilmott said after Tuesday's meeting that Gilbert's team has been running the casino profitably. Greektown Casino was losing money at the time Gilbert and his partners bought it in 2013. The casino had been in bankruptcy from 2008 to 2010.

Greektown is the No. 3 casino by revenue in Detroit after Motor City Casino Hotel and market leader MGM Grand Detroit.

“The fact that we’re the smallest casino of the three certainly gives us opportunities for improvement," Wilmott said.

Penn National has no immediate plans for any physical changes to the casino, Wilmott said, but will be bringing in a new general manager, John Drake, to run the property.   

“We want to learn a little about the business as we work with team members there and understand what the customers are looking for in additional amenities before we start talking about any improvements,” he said.

The Penn National CEO also said they will be closely following future developments in the state Legislature that could permit sports betting in Michigan. The company has casinos in three states – Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi – where sports betting is allowed.

”It’s proven to be a very nice amenity," Wilmott said. "It brings in a new group of customers, and we’re seeing a lot if increased visitation around sports betting."