Dan Gilbert's Detroit casino sale means he can now donate to state politicians

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FLICKR, ERIC DROST
  • Flickr, Eric Drost

Dan Gilbert is selling his Greektown Casino to real estate investment trust Penn National Gaming for $1 billion.

Matthew Cullen, CEO of Jack Entertainment and principal of Rock Ventures, told The Detroit News that Penn National will pay $300 million to become Greektown Casino's operator, while New York-based VICI Properties Inc. will pay $700 million to own the property.

Gilbert is in the midst of four major projects, including a new skyscraper on the former Hudson’s department store site; a new mixed-use project on the Monroe Block; the renovation of the long-vacant Book Tower and Building; and a major expansion of the One Campus Martius building. There are rumors that Gilbert's considering buying the Detroit Tigers, and raising money from the casino's sale could help fund those projects — though Gilbert told the Free Press there is no Tigers deal in the works. Casino owners are not allowed to own MLB teams, so that could change.

"We plan on deploying that capital right into the city," Gilbert told The Detroit News. "I've got nowhere else to invest except for real estate business and technology businesses and start-up businesses in the city of Detroit. We plan on taking that capital and hopefully doing great things with it downtown."

There is something else Gilbert could do with the money, however. Because he owned a casino, Gilbert wasn't allowed to make political donations at the state level due to gaming law regulations — though he has circumvented that rule by simply having his top lieutenants do it for him, as he did in lobbying for the Hudson site "Gilbert bills." Regardless, selling the casino will allow him to directly contribute to state lawmakers.

Previously, Gilbert donated heavily to national races and PACs. Gilbert's Quicken Loans donated $750,000 to President Donald Trump's inauguration. During the 2016 campaign, Gilbert didn't donate to Trump, but he did make donations to Republicans Chris Christie and John Kasich. He also plays both sides, and donated $75,000 to a joint fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.

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