Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was a crucial figure in bringing casino gambling to Ohio — and it offers insight into his transformation of downtown Detroit

  • Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is the billionaire founder of Quicken Loans and oversees more than 100 companies, including the Jack Entertainment casino group.
  • Gilbert is based in Detroit, but in 2009 he was a pivotal champion of legalizing casino gambling in Ohio so that he could expand his business.
  • The episode shows how Gilbert has built his empire by transforming communities rather than just building in them.

When Dan Gilbert expands his businesses, he doesn’t move to a place and stand idly by. Since moving his mortgage company Quicken Loans’ headquarters to Detroit in 2010, he’s invested more than $US3.5 billion (with $US2.1 billion more in development) into the city’s downtown, where his company Bedrock owns about 60 properties. And before that, after he became the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team in 2005, he began thinking of ways to expand his influence there, as well.

“There’s a natural opportunistic thing that happens where one thing leads to another,” Gilbert told Business Insider for an episode of our podcast “Success! How I Did It.” “So now we have the Cavaliers, things are going pretty good, and we see this opportunity where we feel like we could impact things.”

This led to forming Rock Gaming, later renamed Jack Entertainment, in 2009 with six fellow businessmen and friends, and campaigning to vote in favour of an amendment to the Ohio state constitution that would legalise casino gambling and tax it at 33%. As the chairman of Rock Gaming, Gilbert took the lead, and publicly debated with politicians and other opponents to the amendment. It easily passed with 53% of the vote, and last year, according to the American Gambling Association, Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos (a racetrack without table games) brought the state $US594 million in taxes and employed 19,953 people.

Today Jack Entertainment has a casino in both downtown Cleveland and Cincinnati, and a racino in North Randall.

Gilbert became so linked with support for the amendment in public that as the vote drew near, opposition groups began attacking Gilbert personally, Cleveland.com reported. During his public appearances, he had aligned himself with politicians Frank Jackson, who was mayor of Cleveland at the time. In Detroit, he’s allied himself with Mayor Mike Duggan.

In both Cleveland and Detroit, Gilbert has been able to get into depressed urban areas when real estate was cheap, make alliances that allow his influence to flourish, and grow businesses that rise along with the communities they’re in.

“In other words, the more you give to the community, the more good things you make happen, and actually at the end of the day, the more profits your company will make,” Gilbert told us.

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