One of Ontario’s leading casino resorts, Caesars Windsor, was forced to shut down operations last week after workers went on strike and while the closure is undoubtedly damaging for the resort’s revenues, it seems to benefit its competitors. Many analysts predicted that Detroit’s gambling industry may win big from the strike, but it is Gateway casinos that see the immediate effect from the cancelled reservations and postponed shows.
As one of the largest gambling companies in Canada, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment operates several facilities in relatively close proximity to Windsor. On Wednesday, the company’s spokesman, Rob Mitchell said that these casinos are now reporting increased traffic as a result of the strike at Caesars Windsor. According to him, regular customers there see Gateway’s properties as an alternative because they are in the same area and offer similar amenities and entertainment options. The boost in business has been particularly felt in Southwestern Ontario, Mitchell explains, at the Gateway Casinos locations in Point Edward and Dresden, which is near Chatham.
Caesars Windsor, a large resort with a modern casino, two hotel towers, and a 5,000-seat events centre, is operated by the American company Caesars Entertainment Corporation. The casino was closed on April 6, when workers decided to go on strike over wages. The two sides had been in negotiations since February but no agreement on the new collective contracts could be reached. A possible strike was looming since March, but last week Unifor Local 444, the labour union representing around 2,300 Caesars Windsor employees agreed on a proposed contract. Workers, however, rejected the casino’s offer and decided to hit the picket line.
As a result of the strike, the resort was forced to cancel hotel reservations for the rest of April and even displace guests. The casino was shut down and all concerts and shows at the Colosseum were postponed until the dispute is resolved and work is resumed. It was expected that the closure would be a boost for casinos in Detroit, as the only thing separating Windsor, Ontario, from Detroit, Michigan, is the Detroit River. All three casinos on the American side of the river, MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino, are located in Downtown Detroit, just a mile or two from the border.
Possible Consequences if the Strike Continues
The three casinos in Detroit could experience a significant boost in business, especially if the strike continues for a long time. It happened before – the last strike in Caesars Windsor was in 2004 when the casino resort remained closed for 42 days. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs and the cancelled operations resulted in lower revenues. Eventually, many gamblers moved to Detroit casinos. If history repeats itself, this could cause long-term damage to Caesars Windsor and increased revenues for Detroit’s gambling industry, but another scenario is already unfolding.
A major Canadian player is reaping the benefits of the casino closure, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. Although the two Gateway casinos near Windsor are relatively small, they are already seeing a surge in customer numbers. One of them, Gateway Casinos Dresden, is a horse racing track with a gaming space featuring 148 slot machines. Gateway Casinos Point Edward, on the other hand, is larger, offering 450 slot machines and 20 table games. It is currently under renovation, which includes expansion of the gaming offerings. According to Mitchell, all this is positive for Gateway as its brands are now gaining more recognition. Whether the strike at Caesars Windsor would result in financial profits for its competitors, however, remains to be seen.