Ontario Casinos Except Caesars Windsor Prepare to Reopen

The Ontario government and health officials gave the okay for most of the region’s casinos and charitable gaming centres to reopen. Canada has been slow to reopen its nonessential businesses due to the far of another rise in positive Covid-19 cases. However, as a part of the Stage 3 reopening plan, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) can work with properties to meet eligibility requirements and unlock those doors.

Caesars Windsor is not one of those properties, though. It happens to be in a region that has not yet progressed to Stage 3. This doesn’t bode well for the Windsor-Essex County economic condition or for the casino as a whole. It doesn’t help that Eldorado Resorts just officially acquired Caesars, and the casino is searching for new management.

Good News for Most Ontario Gaming

In recent weeks, OLG was busy reopening its lottery prize centres. While that process remains a limited and cautious one, it began in June for players redeeming tickets worth $50,000 or more. Since then, the amount lowered to $10,000 by appointment only but should open further soon.

On Friday, July 31, OLG made its official announcement about casinos and charitable gaming centres. Per the Stage 3 reopening plan established by the Ontario government, these properties could begin reopening but must adhere to several restrictions:

  • No more than 50 customers in a gaming establishment at one time.
  • All persons in the gaming establishment must stay two metres apart for physical distancing.
  • No table games may operate, including poker.
  • Customers must wear masks or face-coverings.

If all goes well and the number of Covid-19 cases in Ontario remains low, OLG will likely ease those restrictions slowly.

The first casinos and charitable gaming centres to reopen will be based on counties and regions, per their coronavirus numbers and health official approvals. They have been closed since mid-March.

In addition, all properties wanting to reopen must devise a safety plan, obtain a positive review from a designated health expert, and submit it to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for approval. Once approved, each establishment must announce its reopening date and ensure the proper publication of its rules.

The announcement added:

“Working in partnership with Ontario, its industry partners, and the AGCO, OLG is proud to contribute to the reopening of the economy with health and safety as a top priority.”

Keep Waiting, Caesars Windsor

The notice from OLG noted that all casinos are eligible to reopen “except for Caesars Windsor, which is in the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit region, which remains in Stage 2.”

This is the only Caesars-managed property to remain closed after the first wave of Covid-19 cases. It is also important to note, though, that the United States – home of the vast majority of Caesars casinos – is a hotbed of virus growth.

On the other hand, and across the border, Michigan casinos have reopened. Most Canadians cannot access them because of a “closed” border, but Caesars Windsor’s direct competition is not far away and operating with few limitations.

The loss of revenue from Caesars Windsor, though, has been “detrimental” to the Canadian city’s budget. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens recently told CBC that his city will lose $12 billion from the casino’s continued closure.

Further, Dilkens noted, “The only way to fill this void is with the full support of both the federal and provincial governments – both of which have a lower cost of borrowing than municipalities.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised help for all parts of Canada to the tune of $14 billion, Dilkens explained that Ontario alone needs $23 billion. The help promised thus far by the federal government “just won’t cut it,” he said.

Caesars Windsor keeps hope alive by bringing in a small portion of the 2,100 laid-off workers to start preparing the casino for a reopening. However, this has been happening for nearly one month with no opening date in sight yet.

Fate of Caesars Windsor Beyond Caesars

Just last month, Eldorado Resorts completed its buyout of Caesars Entertainment for $17.3 billion. The companies received regulatory approval in all necessary states, and the two finally merged to become the new Caesars Entertainment. It now owns more than 55 properties in North America.

At this point, Caesars Windsor has a contract with Caesars Entertainment – one that began back in 2008 – that runs through the summer of 2023. That reflects an extension of the current contract that had been set to expire last week.

Back at the beginning of 2020, just one week into the new year, OLG announced the creation of a Windsor Gaming Bundle to find a new long-term service provider for the Caesars Windsor property. However, OLG noted that the process will be extensive, as it didn’t even plan to start accepting submissions for pre-qualification until the fall months of 2020.

It is unclear if the coronavirus pandemic will delay that process in any way.



Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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