Ongoing Strike at Detroit Casino Clouds Much-Anticipated Launch of ESPN BET

Penn Entertainment is spending over $1.5B to rebrand its online sportsbook with the ESPN name, but workers on strike in Detroit at Penn-operated Hollywood Casino at Greektown are urging a boycott

“Detroit loses with ESPN BET” ads target sports fans placing wagers online

DETROIT—As Penn Entertainment launches its new ESPN BET rebrand for its sports betting app, workers at Penn-operated Hollywood Casino at Greektown, located in downtown Detroit, are calling on wagerers to boycott the platform until they are no longer on strike.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, unionized casino workers at MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown launched a wall-to-wall strike affecting 3,700 casino workers, including dealers, cleaning staff, food and beverage workers, valets, engineers, and more. Workers have been forced on strike to protect their healthcare and improve wages that are not keeping up with the cost of living, along with improved job security and fair workloads. It is the first casino strike in Detroit history.

Late last week, the Detroit Casino Council (DCC) called on the public to boycott all sports betting and online casino platforms associated with the three casinos where workers have been forced on strike: ESPN BET and Hollywood iCasino (Hollywood Casino at Greektown), FanDuel (MotorCity Casino), and BetMGM (MGM Grand Detroit). In Michigan, online gambling licenses must be held by brick-and-mortar casinos, and online players may not be aware that workers at these casinos have been on strike. The Detroit casino unions launched a digital ad campaign asking sports fans to hold off on placing bets until workers secure wages and benefits that are enough to live on and the strike is settled.

“Penn Entertainment is sinking $1.5 billion just for the rights to use the ESPN brand for its online sports betting platform, but they won’t they invest in paying a fair wage at their Michigan casino, where workers are on strike,” said D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE International Union. “The casino operators could end the strike today if they would agree to giving workers the pay, benefits, and protections they deserve. The Detroit Casino Council is calling on sports fans to not use ESPN BET and other apps associated with the operators of the three struck casinos until the strike is over: ESPN Bet is a loser for Michigan if PENN won’t invest in our communities.”

Other sports betting apps such as Caesars Sportsbook, Caesars Palace Online Casino, WynnBET, DraftKings, Sports Illustrated Sportsbook, and others are not part of the boycott.

Detroit’s casino workers sacrificed raises and shouldered heavier workloads so the industry could recover from the pandemic. In September 2020, workers agreed to a three-year contract extension with minimal wage increases to help the industry get back on its feet. Since then, Detroit casino workers have received only 3% raises, but inflation in Detroit has risen 20%. In contrast, industry gaming revenues have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels to reach a new record high. In 2022, the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue from in-person and online gaming, and the industry is on track for another record-breaking year in 2023.


The Detroit Casino Council (DCC) is UNITE HERE Local 24, the UAW, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. These five unions represent most of the workers at the three casinos in Detroit: Hollywood Casino at Greektown, MGM Grand Detroit, and MotorCity Casino. Our members work in food and beverage, housekeeping, retail outlets, slots and table games, engineering and more. The DCC partner unions are part of International Unions that have experience representing gaming workers and winning great contracts throughout the United States, including in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.