Caesars Faces Competition To Maintain Windsor Casino Rights

Caesars Faces Competition To Maintain Windsor Casino Rights
By Steve Bittenbender
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Caesars Entertainment has operated a casino in Windsor for nearly 30 years, but now it is in a competitive fight for the rights to manage one of Canada’s largest casinos.

The Toronto Globe and Mail, citing anonymous sources, reported Monday that Caesars and two other operators, Bally’s Corp. and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, are the finalists to run the Southern Ontario casino for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. An OLG representative told the public agency will not release the names of the entities vying for the contract while the procurement process is ongoing.

The head of the labor union representing workers at Caesars Windsor said he hopes the Las Vegas-based gaming company, which offers the Caesars Palace Online Casino Ontario app, retains the contract and lamented OLG’s decision to include the casino in its “modernization plan.”

OLG initially did not include Caesars Windsor in its modernization plan when the agency unveiled it in 2012. However, in July 2020, then-OLG President and CEO Stephen Rigby announced the corporation would add the property to the plan in hopes it would “protect the long-term competitiveness of the Windsor market,” which sits directly south of Detroit, where three casinos are located downtown. All are within two miles of Caesars.

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Labor Backs Caesars Ontario Casino Bid

About 1,600 Caesars employees are members of Unifor Local 444, which represents workers at several major businesses in Windsor, London and elsewhere in Ontario. Local President David Cassidy told that the facility – a major physical component of a gaming scene that also includes Ontario online casinos – is “a crown jewel of Windsor” and the second largest employer in the city of nearly 230,000 residents.

Cassidy added that he has been told it would likely cost around C$80 million to transition the casino from Caesars to another brand.

“I don’t want to see another brand,” he added. “We’re happy with Caesars. They bring world-class entertainment here. It’s a world-class facility. It’s a great spot.”

Details On OLG’s Selection Process

Tony Bitonti, a spokesperson for Ontario Lottery and Gaming, told on Tuesday that the agency released the request for proposal to operate the Windsor casino last October. That solicitation went to companies OLG deemed as “pre-qualified” based on a selection process that ended last May. The public agency has also brought in a “fairness monitor” to help advise and oversee the selection process.

“The RFP will enable OLG to select a highly qualified service provider to handle day-to-day operations while ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the site — so it can continue generating economic benefits for the local community and for Ontario,” Bitonti said.

He added that contracts for other OLG casino operators have run for about 20 years. Last August, Caesars’ contract for the Windsor casino was extended through August 2025. That deal includes lottery-controlled options to extend it for at least six more months but no more than 12 months.

Workers will also be transferred to the new operator if there is a change. In the 2020 announcement, OLG said the winning bidder would need to keep those employees for at least 12 months, and those represented by unions would maintain the terms of their existing collective bargaining agreement.

Cassidy said a new operator will need to understand the market they’re entering if another bidder besides Caesars should win.

“It needs to be a brand that is an international brand,” he said. “It needs to be a brand that can compete with the other casinos across the ditch here in Detroit because that’s really where our competition comes from. So, it has to be at a world-class level.”

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Steve Bittenbender

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters. He shares his expertise on OntarioBets, among other sites.

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