What is the Future of Caesars Windsor?

This has been a tough year for all casinos. The coronavirus pandemic forcing casinos around the world to shut their doors in the last few months to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been especially tough. Caesars Windsor, however, has issues underneath it all.

Caesars-Eldorado Merger Looms

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) officially owns the Caesars Windsor property, but Caesars Entertainment manages it.

In the summer of 2019, Eldorado Resorts announced its intention to buy Caesars Entertainment in a deal worth $17.3 billion. After months of speculation about a merger and other suitors for Caesars, Eldorado won the day. And shares of both companies jumped at the idea.

At that time, the plan was for Eldorado to pay $7.2 billion in cash and take 51% of the combined shares.

The deal is set to close sometime in 2020, but both companies had to move some properties before it could happen. It is still possible for them to close in the first half of the year with nearly two months remaining on that timeline, but it will be tight.

At first, Harrah’s New Orleans, Harrah’s Laughlin, and Harrah’s Atlantic City were up for grabs. Sales continued for both Caesars and Eldorado into 2020. The latest, for example, was Eldorado offloading MontBleu in Lake Tahoe and Eldorado Shreveport for $155 million to Twin River Holdings. This buyer also took Bally’s Atlantic City for $25 million.

Roller Coaster for Caesars Windsor

When the Caesars-Eldorado deal was first announced in June 2019, Caesars Windsor portrayed a confident demeanor. Caesars and OLG assured Unifor Local 444 that the employees’ collective agreement would remain intact, and OLG said it was “business as usual” at the property.

As the sales began, including one that involved Caesars selling the Rio in Las Vegas, home of the World Series of Poker, OLG didn’t blink. OLG owned Caesars Windsor anyway, so the major concern at that point was the future of management.

The start of 2020 brought an OLG announcement, though. OLG created a Windsor Gaming Bundle to find a long-term service provider for Caesars Windsor. While Caesars did agree to manage the casino property for a period of three years, OLG wanted to start the process. The goal is to put the property into a new operator’s capable hands by mid-2023.

OLG told employees there would be no immediate changes.

Further, any new operator must retain employees for a minimum of one year after the transition to new management. That ensured employment for workers for years, likely through mid-2024. And Unifor Local 444 ensured that the collective agreement would protect unionized employees going forward.

Enter a Global Pandemic

As the coronavirus spread from Asia to Europe and into North America, Canada and the United States took drastic measures to slow the spread. In mid-March, casinos were some of the many businesses required to shut their doors indefinitely, and Caesars Windsor did just that on Monday, March 16.

Many hoped the closures would last two weeks, and then it looked like mid-April. Now, in the first week of May, examinations of reopening procedures have shown more difficulties than anticipated. While trying to protect customers and employees, bringing business back is going to be hard.

Windsor is trying a phased approach, as is happening in many other parts of Canada and the world. Devonshire Mall opened some businesses on Friday, May 1, but with physical distancing required.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens feels the reopening plan is a fair and reasonable one but reminds, “These are life-and-death decisions the province is making.”

As the first stage began with the mall and other non-essential businesses that can modify operations for social distancing, hospitals also started scheduling non-urgent procedures. The next stage will allow more service industries and retail facilities to open. But the final phase – quite a way into the future – will relax rules on sporting events and concerts.

Caesars Windsor Reps in Talks

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy represents approximately 2,300 employees at Caesars Windsor and nearly three times that many at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles assembly plant. The latter facility reopened this week.

The casino, however, could prove much more difficult. And Cassidy is concerned, according to CBC, that it will be one of the last things to reopen in Windsor. “It’s such an unknown at this time,” he said.

Cassidy also noted that casino officials are very involved in ongoing discussions regarding how and when to reopen, and how many employees could be included in each phase of the property’s opening. Meetings have included details of disinfecting and regular cleaning chips, tables, and machines, as well as how to manage the spacing and overall gaming floor plans.

In another interview, Cassidy added that the government should consider single-event sports betting. Not only has it been discussed seriously in the past several years, casinos could certainly use the help bringing customers back into the fold and adding revenue.

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. As the online gaming sectors have changed and grown, particularly in the United States and Canada, she has followed it all and written about it for websites like World Poker Tour and PokerScout. In her free time, she runs a small business, reads, cooks, and enjoys music.

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