Detroit Casino Workers Embark on Indefinite Strike After Failed Negotiations



  • Some 3,700 Detroit retail casino workers from five unions have officially kicked off an indefinite strike action.
  • This marks the first time ever that workers from the Detroit casinos have gone on strike. They demand increased wages and healthcare, among others.
  • All Detroit casinos remain open despite limited staff and functionality. However, they are projected to lose about $3 million daily from the strike.

For the first time in the history of Detroit casinos, 3,700 workers from five unions have embarked on a strike after new contract negotiations failed. Casino workers started the industrial action after the deadline set for the respective casino managements lapsed at noon on Tuesday, October 17. The workers had earlier recorded a near-unanimous vote on September 29 authorizing the strike.

While the strike is expected to be indefinite, the Detroit Casino Council, which is representing all workers, hopes to effectively bargain across five core issues. Up until noon on Tuesday, they had embarked on 160 hours of full-table negotiations, all of which deadlocked.

Healthcare, Better Wages and Job Security at the Heart of Strike Action

Workers from MGM Grand Detroit, Hollywood Casino at Greektown and MotorCity Casino have made five key demands. These workers are under the auspices of five different unions, namely UNITE HERE Local 24, Teamsters Local 1038, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, UAW and Operating Engineers Local 324. However, negotiations have been spearheaded by the Detroit Casino Council which currently represents the joint interests of unions and their workers.

Over the past two and a half weeks, these unions have pressed on about better wage structure, job security, healthcare options, workload reductions and retirement benefits. These five issues remain at the heart of negotiations and the strike action. Still, there has been no progress whatsoever, with union leaders saying a new contract was still “far apart.”
“After we helped Detroit’s gaming industry get back on its feet, business is booming, but the people who make the casinos run are still struggling. Our goal is to reach a fair deal, but unfortunately, we’re still far apart. If the companies won’t do better, then we are prepared to strike tomorrow,” Nia Winston, President of UNITE HERE Local 24 said in a statement on Monday, October 16.

Fueling these five bargaining issues is the significant discrepancy between wages and revenue recorded since the pandemic. In 2022, Detroit retail casinos generated about $1.45 billion from gaming and sports betting operations. However, available jobs since the pandemic have reduced by 1,500 while the total wages also decreased by $34 million compared to 2019.

The DCC alleges that Detroit casinos brought in $2.27 billion, erroneously adding online casino revenue from BetMGM, FanDuel Casino MI and PENN to its calculations. Detroit casinos have disputed the figures, with MGM Grand Detroit specifically stating that it does not take a part of the revenue from BetMGM Casino Michigan.

Retail Outlets Remain Open but Functioning at Limited Capacity

Despite the strike, all of Detroit’s retail casinos are open and trying to operate to the best possible extent. Eyewitness accounts from the three casinos can confirm that the casino floors are open, but some services are unavailable or restricted from customers.

Hollywood Casino at Greektown has released a statement confirming that they will remain open for operations despite the mass staff walkout.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Detroit Casino Council as we have made generous, progressive settlement offers that position our team members and business for sustainable success,” Jeff Morris, Vice President of Public Affairs for PENN Entertainment, said in a press release. “We will remain open for business to serve our customers and are committed to continued good-faith bargaining with the Detroit Casino Council to resolve the issues at hand as soon as possible.”

At Hollywood Casino, all gaming floors were open, but the sportsbook and dining options were shut on Tuesday afternoon. The situation is almost similar in MotorCity Casino where the in-person sportsbook and the first gaming were closed. BetMGM Sportsbook was also restricted, with customers opting for kiosks. Several areas at MGM Grand Detroit remain shut, including the poker room.

Detroit Casinos Projected to Lose $3 Million Daily from Worker Strike

For each day that this strike continues, the casinos are expected to lose a combined value of about $3.5 daily. From January to August 2023, Detroit casinos have generated $853.7 million worth of revenue. That amounts to approximately $3.5 million daily. With most parts of the casinos already closed and more options expected to shut down in the coming days, Detroit casinos may lose their entire daily revenue.

From a year-to-date perspective, Detroit casinos have recorded almost $180 million in tax revenue. That would also mean the government loses about $700K in tax revenue for each day that the strike continues, and operations are grounded at retail outlets.

To combat this eventuality, the casinos are open to welcoming staff who cross the picket lines to work.

“We will continue to offer employees work, and to the extent employees represented by the union choose to participate in the strike, we will take whatever lawful action is necessary to fill shifts and continue providing our customers with entertainment and service,” Matt Buckley, President & COO of Midwest Group, representing MGM Grand Detroit, said in a statement.

“Although employees represented by the union have the right both to strike and to picket, no one can prevent you from coming to work, threaten you with violence, or interfere with you when you arrive and depart from the property. If you are the target of any such conduct, please report it to Security or Human Resources immediately.”

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments