DETROIT: As casino gambling hits the Motor City, PR firms in the Detroit and Lansing, MI are likely to be among the big winners.
DETROIT: As casino gambling hits the Motor City, PR firms in the
Detroit and Lansing, MI are likely to be among the big winners.
Local PR pros last week estimated that casinos in the region will
generate up to dollars 1 million a year in PR work - and that’s assuming
the absence of any crisis that necessitates further PR counsel.
’It’s a new industry in what has traditionally been a one-industry
town,’ said Lisa Vallee-Smith, president of the Detroit-based Franco
Public Relations Group, one of three PR firms working for MGM Grand
Detroit. PR firms in Lansing, meanwhile, will be the beneficiaries of
the casinos’ need to reach decision-makers in the state capital.
MGM Grand opened the first of three planned Detroit casinos at the end
of July. Two more will open later this year, the exact timing dependent
on regulatory approvals.
Casino gambling has been an issue in Michigan for more than two
Detroit voters approved casinos in 1994 and a state referendum on gaming
passed in 1996. The city is the first major urban center to have
land-based casinos. The two additional operations, known as the
Greektown casino and the Motor City casino, had hoped to open by
October, but state regulatory reviews may push this timetable back.
PR will come into play as each casino strives to differentiate itself
from the others. The PR push will likely repeat itself in four years,
when all three move to permanent homes that include hotel and
Roger Martin’s Lansing firm, Rossman Martin & Associates, has worked on
behalf of the Greektown casino for seven years, handling media and
community relations as well as providing some government-relations
’It was a long uphill battle to change the law,’ Martin said.
He sees potential PR business amounting to dollars 500,000 and dollars
700,000 annually for local PR firms, while Franco’s Vallee-Smith puts
the figure closer to dollars 1 million.
While neither Vallee-Smith nor MGM would discuss what it is spending on
PR, Vallee-Smith acknowledged that the MGM Grand account is among the
agency’s most lucrative. Franco had PR income of dollars 1.8 million in
1998 and is the largest Detroit PR firm in the PRWeek Top 200.
MGM also is working with Berg Muirhead & Associates for government and
media relations and with a third local firm, Nedd Associates, for
community relations. ’We’ve pushed the message that there are jobs for
Detroiters,’ said Bob Berg, discussing the 2,700 positions the MGM Grand
has created in its temporary facility - ironically, a former Internal
Revenue Service building.
Not every Detroit PR firm is catching casino fever, however. Frederick
Zosel, president of PR Associates, a firm with annual PR fees around
dollars 1 million, said he won’t go after casino business. ’I turned
them all down because I don’t believe in gambling,’ he said.