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Review: Greektown Casino in Detroit

Unique Space and Neighborhood Flavor

By

Greektown Casino Hotel At Night
Santocomm/Wikimedia Commons

Bottom Line:

A unique space, central location and historic neighborhood give the Greektown Casino a character distinct from its local and national competition. While it is in a congested area currently clogged with construction, access problems should resolve when its permanent facilities are completed later this year (or possibly early 2009). It does need to loosen its slots and give at least some of its staff refresher courses in customer relations.

Permanent Casino/Hotel

The permanent casino facilities will include a 30-story, 400-room hotel built by the recently completed parking garage, both of which are located kiddy corner (NE) on Monroe Avenue from the existing casino. According to a 2005 article in The Detroit News, the incorporation of the temporary “Trapper’s Alley” casino into the permanent plans saved $250 million in construction costs. It also preserved the unique, multi-tiered space in which millions had already been invested.

Ease of Access

A lot is going on in Greektown as construction continues on the hotel, which makes an already congested area more of a challenge to navigate. Ideally, you can come into the casino off I-375 by taking the East Lafayette exit. This lets you off less than a block from the free parking garage. The problem comes when you brave the warren of one-way streets to drop someone off, at say, the main door. Good luck. Construction has eliminated several sidewalks around the casino, making an outside walk actually dangerous at certain places. If you make it to the Monroe entrance on the ground floor by the Pegasus Restaurant, you did well. You are now on restaurant row, but the casino is gated off all along this interior walkway until its end on Beaubien.

Parking

Entering via the parking garage is relatively easy and recommended. The garage is huge, free and well marked as to the free spaces on each of its several floors of parking. The third floor of the parking garage is connected to the second floor of the casino. Once the hotel is complete, it will also share this pedestrian skyway. This is obviously the preferred foot-traffic entrance into the casino because you are greeted with an impressive marble foyer that is lined on one side with a Greektown souvenir store.

Valet parking is available at the St. Antoine Street entrance to the casino, but construction at the corner of Lafayette and St. Antoine makes this somewhat confusing.

People Mover

Greektown casino is also a stop along the People Mover, which means you can park just about anywhere downtown and still stop in for a hand or two of blackjack. Conversely, you can park at the Greektown casino, gamble, and then head out to other downtown attractions/destinations. In fact, the casino’s proximity to Ford Field and Comerica Park means that fans swell the casino crowd before and after games.

“Trapper’s Alley”

The space the casino occupies is truly unique and historical. Originally, a warehouse for fur traders, “Trappers Alley” was redeveloped in the 1980s as a multi-level mall with a central atrium. As a casino, it is decorated with blazing torches and a Greek motif and consists of a maze of rooms, bridges and stairways. While there is a “grand” stair case, the several other twisty, windy staircases and bridges connecting the casino’s split levels in the atrium area can make finding a particular place challenging. The series of small, low-ceiling rooms also "trap" smoke.

Note: Several of the stairways in the atrium area are marked for staff only.

Gaming

Greektown Casino also has a wide range of glitzy slot machines, including an enormous wheel-of-fortune wheel with gaming stations located around its perimeter. While the variety of machines seems broader than Greektown’s competitors, the word on the street is that the slots are tight. Whether this extends to the poker and blackjack machines is anybody’s guess, but the casino does offer a large number of these games. The key, as always in a gaming establishment, is knowing when to quit. Whatever your strategy in this regard, ATMs and ticket-exchange machines are located throughout the casino.

Note: The construction across the street will eventually include an additional 25,000 square feet of gaming space.

Service

There are attendants and waiters throughout the casino and clearly visible. Like any casino, whether in Detroit, Atlantic City or Vegas, expect to sit for a while in the case of a machine malfunction or big win. The warren of small rooms means the light on the top of your machine doesn’t carry far, and it’s luck of the draw whether someone will happen through your area.

The gaming supervisor at the casino, however, needs a refresher course in customer relations. A printer malfunction on a blackjack machine meant a 20 minute wait to retrieve a $5 ticket stuck in the machine. Not only was she dismissive and unfriendly, she never apologized for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, rude service is a frequent complaint in user reviews posted across the Internet.

Food/Bars

Greektown Casino has the advantage of being located in…wait for it…Greektown, which means dining destinations abound, many of which are in the casino itself. In fact, one of the original Greektown restaurants has an entrance off the ground floor walkway: Pegasus. Several other restaurants have entrances off the walkway as well. They also have store fronts on Monroe Avenue.

Casino restaurants/bars include The Alley Grille Steakhouse, The Grapevine Café and The Apollo Lounge (a corner stage for live entertainment that is temporarily closed during construction). There is also a coffee shop and ice-cream store. More than 25 Greektown restaurants accept comp tickets from the casino.

Several game-side bars are located throughout the casino, including a large circular bar in its center with bar-top video poker. There is also a snack shop in the upper reaches of the casino’s atrium with a coffee bar/sandwich stand and several tables for eating.

Accommodations

Before the MGM Grand and the MotorCity Casinos built their permanent hotel facilities, Greektown had a clear advantage: The Atheneum Hotel, an adjacent, luxury hotel.

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