As Michigan Waits, Caesars Windsor To Begin Discussions On Reopening

Posted on April 22, 2020

With no finish line in clear sight for the closure of Michigan casinos, there appears to be some movement across the Detroit River.

A union representative for Caesars Windsor said talks are scheduled this week to make plans for the eventual reopening of the Canadian casino as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, said in addition to dates, issues to be discussed include physical distancing on the casino floor, live shows and players using the same chips.

Cassidy also told AM800’s The Morning Drive he supports bringing single-sports betting to Canada where parlays are currently king.

“Get the government to pay attention here and bring sports betting in,” Cassidy said. “What an idea. This could help drive some of the business back as well.”

Caesars Windsor impacts Michigan’s casinos

Caesars Windsor used to be the only game in town for legalized sports betting near the Metro Detroit area.

Just a short ride through the tunnel from downtown Detroit, the facility’s Game Picks area allows for parlay bets only.

The plight of Windsor’s casino impacts revenues of the Detroit casinos, Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino.

The Windsor Star theorized that a two-month workers strike that shut down Caesars Windsor in 2018 boosted the revenue in Detroit’s casinos by a few percentage points.

Caesars Windsor was the first game in town, opening as Casino Windsor in May 1994 as Ontario’s first casino. The Detroit casinos started opening in 1999.

The Windsor facility added sports betting in 2006. Detroit’s casinos added sportsbooks (with single-event betting) last month after Michigan sports betting was ratified in December.

Sports betting could expand in Canada

A new bipartisan bill in Canada’s House of Commons to add single-event betting was expected to be debated in late March or early April, but the session was adjourned because of the outbreak.

Kevin Waugh, of Saskatchewan, is the sponsor of the bill, the third time similar legislation is being considered since 2011.

“It might be too little, too late for Windsor in that,” Jake Miklojcik, gaming analyst for Michigan Consultants, said to PlayMichigan. “It’s good to do, but it should’ve been done originally.”

Miklojcik said that even if Canada gets single-event betting going in a year, they will then be behind in mobile sports betting, which is expected to launch in Michigan in early 2021.

“It’ll be nice to watch 35 TVs with your buddies, but you can do that at home, too,” Miklojcik said.

The Canadian Gaming Association estimates $14 billion of sports betting is being wagered annually in the country, mostly through offshore sportsbooks or illegal bookmakers.

Windsor received more than $1.6 million this week from gaming revenue through Ontario Lottery and Gaming. The total included revenue from Caesars Windsor for the quarter spanning January to March.

Coronavirus hitting Canada as well

According to the Canadian government’s website on Wednesday, the country had 38,932 total cases of COVID-19, mostly in Quebec and Ontario.

There also were 1,871 deaths linked to the virus.

While President Donald Trump planned to bar new immigration into the US on Wednesday, nonessential travel in and out of Canada, Mexico and the US was banned this week another 30 days.

Caesars Windsor closed on March 15 because of the spreading virus, one day before Detroit’s trio of casinos closed.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a stay-at-home order in Michigan through April 30 and said Wednesday she expects to announce a short-term extension soon.

Based on recent improving coronavirus numbers, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has talked this week about discussing details to open the economy soon.

No sports with fans any time soon in Canada

Trump is among those hoping to get major sports leagues back up and running.

However, since many of the teams play in Canadian locales, Canada’s harder stance is throwing a curveball into the discussions.

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, who oversees all of Canada’s national sports institutions, told the New York Times that the country won’t have large gatherings until the end of the summer.

He added there could be wiggle room, though Quebec canceled “sporting gatherings” for the summer and Toronto canceled mass events through June 30.

Canada is home to 12 professional sports franchises in the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and MLS, including the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who are solidly in the playoffs once again.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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