The labour strike that closed Caesars Windsor at the beginning of April has entered its fourth week, with little hope for an easy solution any time soon. But the impact of the closure is spreading far beyond Ontario’s gambling industry and local tourism is expected to take a severe blow if operations at the casino resort are not resumed as soon as possible.
In March, Caesars Windsor won three awards in the annual Best of Windsor Essex organized by Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI). It was recognized in the Best Local Attraction – Gaming category and received two major awards, namely Best Entertainment Venue and Best Hotel. Clearly, the resort is much more than a gambling destination, although the casino draws thousands of gamblers each month from the province and from several US states. Indeed, it is one of the largest and most popular casino and hotel complexes in Canada and as such, it is also one of the main driving forces behind the tourism sector in the City of Windsor and in Ontario.
Since April 6, however, the resort has been closed – hotel reservations booked for the month of May have been cancelled, all Colosseum shows and concerts until May 18 have been postponed, and the casino has been, of course, non-operational. The closure was a result of a strike announced by casino and hotel workers on April 6 after they had rejected a proposed collective agreement with their employer, Caesars Windsor. Represented by the labour union Unifor Local 444, the workers hit the picket line due to the unsatisfactory terms in their new contracts, mainly low wages and pensions.
Meanwhile, the head of the local chapter of the union, James Stewart has left the fight between Caesars Windsor and its workers. On May 1, he announced that he was stepping aside as Unifor Local 444 President as of June 1. Stewart became an interim president in August 2017 and now he would be running for the secretary treasurer position, while David Cassidy would be probably elected for the top job. Stewart assured reporters that this change would not affect the talks with Caesars Windsor because the bargaining team would remain the same.
Caesars Windsor Strike May Have Long-Term Effects
According to the union, casino management has not been willing to sit on the bargaining table and respect workers’ reasonable demands. On its official website, the casino did not respond and it merely informed its guests of the ongoing strike and resort closure. So far, there have been no indications that the two sides would be able to reach an agreement in the coming days or weeks. As a result, analysts expect that the closure would affect Caesars’ revenues for the second quarter and would boost the traffic at its main competitors. These are not only Gateway Casinos and Entertainment venues in Point Edward and Dresden but also the three casinos on the US side of the Detroit River, MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino.
Tourism officials have also been raising concerns that the closure of the casino would have a larger impact. Lynnette Bain, Vice President, Tourism Programs & Development at TWEPI, said that Caesars Windsor is a major attraction in the region and that tourism would be affected by the closure that continues for almost a month now. According to her, the casino brings around 2.3 million visitors each year and many of them spend their vacation outside the resort grounds – on various tours such as wine tours, at events, museums and more. Indeed, the long-term effects of the casino strike would be seen in multiple sectors in Windsor, including tourism, especially if workers and casino officials cannot reach a deal any time soon.