As Tuesday marks the 40th day since the beginning of the labour strike and closure of Ontario’s largest casino resort, negotiations between Caesars Windsor workers and casino management are set to resume. While the complex has shut down all operations, its competitors across the border in Detroit post higher revenues for April, according to official data by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
The riverfront casino is the largest casino and hotel resort in the Canadian province of Ontario and the main factor in Windsor’s tourism and local economy. Since April 6, when workers announced strike action, however, it has been closed, with all gaming and entertainment operations suspended and hotel reservations cancelled. The clash between Caesars Windsor and its employees came after the two sides could not reach a deal on the new collective agreement that should have been signed in the beginning of April. Unifor Local 444, the union representing around 2,300 casino workers, has since led the negotiations and organized rallies for the striking workers whose demands include higher wages and pensions.
Talks between workers and the casino, which is owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation but operated by the Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., broke off on April 18 when the company officials rejected an agreement proposed by the union. Last week, Unifor said that the company was willing to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday. It has been 40 days since workers hit the picket line, however, and most experts believe that the closure of Caesars Windsor has significantly benefited its main competitors just a few miles on the other side of the river, MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Greektown Casino-Hotel.
The hotels in Detroit have seen increased traffic and higher revenues from the same period in 2017, the Michigan Gaming Control Board says in its monthly report. The data, released May 7, shows a clear boost in business for the three casinos in the city – they generated $124 million in aggregate monthly revenue during April, an increase of 2.5 per cent over the results for April 2017. Compared to last year, both MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino Hotel saw higher revenue in April – it was up 3.2 per cent to $51.2 million for MGM and up 3.7 per cent to $43.7 million for MotorCity. Greektown Casino-Hotel’s revenue declined 0.5 per cent to $29.1 million.
Market shares of all three casinos were also up in April – 41 per cent jump for MGM, 35 per cent for MotorCity, and 24 per cent for Greektown. Last month, the three casinos paid $10 million in gaming taxes to the State of Michigan, compared to $9.8 million in April 2017, as well as $14 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments to the City of Detroit. This increase in revenues could be partially a result of the recent federal tax cuts but most experts think it is due to the shutdown of Caesars Windsor.
Canadian Casinos Affected by Labour Strikes
Workers at Caesars Windsor are not the only casino employees on a strike right now. Last week, around 400 people working at Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam, British Columbia, announced a strike over disappointment from the proposed collective agreements they needed to sign with the casino management. The labour disruption, however, has not shut down the facility and it is currently operating with certain limitations in its services. The casino is managed and operated by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, one of the largest gaming and hospitality operators in the country. Its workers, on the other hand, are members of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGSEU).
Meanwhile, workers at Gateway Casinos and Entertainment facilities in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Kamloops will be rallying Tuesday. Represented by the same union, BCGSEU, their demands include higher payment, improved benefits and working conditions. Talks between the four casinos and its employees broke off March 21 and a petition with workers’ demands has been signed by 95 per cent of the people working at these venues. Many of them will be rallying Tuesday at the BCGEU office in Kelowna, while negotiations between the bargaining teams will resume.