By JC Reindl Detroit Free Press Business Writer
Ted Gatzaros, 68, a Greektown developer who doubled down on Detroit as others fled and was largely responsible for bringing casino gambling to the city, died today at McLaren-Macomb Hospital following a battle with lung and stomach cancers.
Gatzaros and his family own the recently reopened London Chop House, the Wah-Hoo Chinese restaurant and all three Fishbone’s Rhythm Kitchen Cafés in metro Detroit.
Along with Jim Papas, a fellow Greek immigrant, Gatzaros developed what is now the International Center Building at 400 Monroe in Greektown and the Atheneum Suite Hotel. Their other projects included the Marquette, Blount and Murphy-Telegraph buildings.
“He was an investor in the city of Detroit when a lot of people were leaving,” said close friend Art Papapanos, a vice president at the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. “He started here from the bottom, and he achieved the American dream.”
Gatzaros and Papas also were partners in a business venture that began in 1988 and tried to open the city’s first casino with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. They provided the tribe with seven-tenths of an acre in Greektown next to Trappers Alley, a former seed company converted into a festival marketplace.
But the plan was scuttled in the mid-1990s by then-Gov. John Engler, who possessed veto power because the tribe was to build on land outside its reservation.
But Gatzaros and Papas had another card to play.
They helped lead the push for the 1996 statewide referendum that approved Detroit’s three present-day casinos.
Then-Mayor Dennis Archer praised Gatzaros’ efforts today, saying the casinos provided Detroiters jobs. “If we didn’t have casino gaming in the city of Detroit, we’d have been bankrupt several years ago.”
But the state’s gaming board wouldn’t grant Gatzaros a license because of allegations regarding his finances that were not publicly disclosed. So Gatzaros and Papas sold their stake in Greektown Casino, allowing it to open in 2000.
Read more of the life and legacy of Ted Gatzaros in the Detroit Free Press