First cars, now casinos hit Detroit, with dollars 1m for pros

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.

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

decades.



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

entertainment venues.



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

support.



’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.



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