Plans are in the works to bring a physical sportsbook to Caesars Windsor casino.
That’s the word from Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444 which represents Ontario casino workers at the Windsor, ON gambling palace.
“They’re going to expand outside of Legends (Sports Bar), and they are going to put a sportsbook in there, which is going to be great,” Cassidy told PlayCanada on Monday. “We’ve talked about up to 100 members that could be added because of a sportsbook… That is nothing but a win as far as the sportsbook is concerned.”
A spokesperson for Caesars Windsor confirmed the casino is pursuing the addition of a sports betting parlour. In an email Susanne Tomkins, the manager of public relations and communications for Caesars Windsor said: “Our sportsbook plans are currently underway and we will be making an official announcement with further details at a later date.”
Neither Tomkins or Cassidy could say when the sportsbook would open. But Cassidy said it will be a top notch sports betting experience.
“It’s going to be comfortable seating for watching all the screens,” he said. “You’ll have your ticket takers there… It’s going to be quite the experience when it gets opened, because I can tell you Caesars does things first class.”
No physical Ontario sportsbooks yet, despite online boom
So far, there are no retail sportsbooks in Ontario, despite there being 26 live online sportsbook operators in the province to date, with more coming.
The closest thing to being able to bet on sports in-person come from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Gamblers can bet through the OLG’s Proline sportsbook at some 10,000 lottery retailers in the province.
Caesars Windsor is the second Ontario casino that has announced it wanted to add a physical sportsbook.
The Woodbine Entertainment Group that operates the province’s premier horse racing facilities, has also long indicated it wants to add sportsbooks to some of its racetrack and teletheatre spaces.
Challenging few years for Unifor 444 casino workers
At Caesars Windsor, it has been a challenging few years due to multiple casino closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province’s casinos were closed from March-September 2020 and December 2020 to February 2021. And casinos were closed for four months from April to July 2021. They also closed for about a month between January and February of 2022.
Though, it appears revenue numbers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels according to some indicators.
Cassidy said that’s good news for Unifor 444’s casino workers. But, there ‘s a long way to go to return employment levels at Caesars Windsor to pre-pandemic levels.
“We still hear from our workers that they’re running ragged. They’re short staffed all the time… We have a lot of members that are back, but we still have members that are off on layoff. The fact of the matter is, I think some have left the corporation. They’ve had to move on because they had to survive.”
Back in March, unionized workers at Caesars voted 93% in favour of a new three-year collective agreement, covering the roughly 1,800 workers at the casino.
Apart from the welcome addition of a sportsbook to bolster employment, Unifor 444 is calling for Caesars Windsor to bring back its popular buffet. However, the casino repeatedly has said the buffet was a money-losing offering.
“It’s a service that that the customers really, really enjoy. And we continue to push them on that to get the buffet open back up. It’s a real benefit for everybody I believe,” Cassidy said.
Scrapping ArriveCAN app would also help attract Americans
Cassidy said about 30% of Caesars Windsor customers prior to the pandemic were Americans. Caesars Windsor is located just across the Detroit River from Detroit.
Despite the Motown being home to three major casinos, Caesars Windsor provides a couple of major attractions to American gamblers, namely:
- The gambling age is 19 in Canada, but 21 at Detroit casinos (though some Michigan tribal casinos allow gambling at age 18).
- US dollars stretch farther in Canada thanks to a 30-35% currency exchange rate.
- There is no tax on gambling winnings in Canada.
The US-Canada border was closed to non-essential land traffic for 19 months from March 2020 to November 2021 during the pandemic. But, now that the border is open again, Cassidy said many American gamblers are staying home due to the requirement to report arrivals in Canada via the ArriveCAN app.
“The ArriveCAN app, people don’t want to go through the hustle and bustle of having to do that. They come over here… and get more bang for the buck. It’s a great experience when they come here. They know that it’s first class. But if we make it tougher at the borders, they’re not coming here,” Cassidy said.
Caesars Rewards has helped maintain casino traffic
Cassidy said his membership was concerned about the impact of an open online gaming market in Ontario. But the Caesars Rewards program has helped maintain strong attendance at Caesars Windsor. Rewards are generated both in person at the casino and through Caesars online casino and sports betting app.
“We were concerned that online gaming would take away from our foot traffic (at Caesars Windsor). But, the fact of the matter is, with the rewards program, people use the rewards and they still go back to the actual casino because they get to use their (reward) monies (there),” Cassidy said.