Battle for Control: Caesars Windsor at a Crossroads

Caesars is facing stiff competition to retain control of one of Ontario’s most lucrative casino properties — Caesars Windsor.

For close to three decades, the eponymous establishment has been presided over by Caesars, but Bally’s and Mohegan Gaming have thrown their hats into the ring, calling into question Caesars’ long-term future in the Canadian province.

The process is ostensibly meant to be confidential, however, the cat has been let out of the bag, and The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLGC), who is the regulatory agency that officially owns Caesars Windsor, is currently mulling over the proposed bids.

It is thought that if Caesars were to be replaced, then the new operator would assume control of the venue in 2025. More pertinently, if the OLGC jettisons Caesars, then it would cost a rival operator roughly $60 million to rebrand the venue.

Supposedly, support for Caesars is widespread, but should the OLGC decide to award the coveted license to another operator, this would cause some consternation and put the OLGC in the firing line.

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Back in 2018, the OLGC incurred the wrath of Caesars after awarding two permits for casinos near Niagara Falls to Mohegan, despite Caesars insisting it would pledge more capital to enhance those venues.

A decision on the new operator is expected to take place later this year, and since Caesars Windsor opened in 1994, the OLGC has licensed 30 land-based casinos in Ontario.

The Economic Impact of Caesars Windsor

Indeed, Caesars Windsor has been the glue that has held the city together, and Gordon Orr, who is the chief executive at Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, is in no doubt about the impact the establishment has had on the tourism sector.

He said: “The casino was the tide that lifted all boats. For the tourism sector, Caesars put us on the path to prosperity.

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“In the hospitality industry, the casino offers destination jobs.”

To give an idea of the pulling power of Caesars, Windsor welcomed 4.4 million visitors in 2022, who in turn, injected $669 million into the local economy.

Caesars Windsor has moved around a lot over the past three decades. Initially, it moved from downtown Windsor to a riverboat, with a spell in an art gallery sandwiched in between, and its current home is a redeveloped convention center that cost $1 billion to build.

Online Gaming and Caesars’ Digital Integration

Anyway, it’s fair to assert that those who wish to branch out from land-based establishments in Ontario aren’t restricted. Since launching iGaming in April 2022, Ontario’s online market has been thriving with much positive impact on the economy in the region, and there are now plenty of operators to pick from.

Indeed, many of the top Ontario online casinos will be well-versed across many areas. One of the things that will make them stand out will be the quality of the games served up. This is the case for North Casino, which is flooded with some of the best slots and table games, and it is always adding to its collection.

Meanwhile, Caesars has managed to meet the challenge of online gambling head-on, and the land-based venue in Windsor has remained relevant. That is the unequivocal opinion of Paul Burns, chief executive of the Canadian Gaming Association.

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He said: “Caesars has created an exciting digital experience that’s seamlessly integrated with their casino experience.

“They’ve been purposeful in giving people a reason to come to Windsor, and built a customer base that reaches from Chicago to Pennsylvania and across Ontario.”

Another thing that regulators must consider is that the city of Windsor is heavily reliant on the casino. The OLGC is responsible for paying a proportion of its casino revenues to Windsor, handing over a total of $88 million over the past three decades. The payments have amounted to 2.5% of the city’s annual budget.

The situation is arguably brighter in Windsor compared to across the river, as Caesars doesn’t have a land-based venue in Michigan.

Caesars is one of the world’s largest gambling companies, with 53 casinos, of which 15 of its venues are based in Nevada.

The Windsor saga has been a fascinating story to date, but there are still plenty more twists and turns that lie ahead. It’s by no means a given that Caesars will continue to pull the strings at Caesars Windsor, so it remains to be seen what the OLGC will decide.

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