Caesars Windsor sportsbook opens in next step of Ontario gambling evolution

Kevin Laforet, CEO of Caesars Windsor, speaks at the grand opening of the casino's sportsbook. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Kevin Laforet, CEO of Caesars Windsor, speaks at the grand opening of the casino's sportsbook. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

The Caesars Windsor sportsbook, where people can eat, drink, and watch their favourite teams compete while putting a wager on the game, opened Wednesday.

The hope is the move will get more people back to work at the casino, and allow Caesars Windsor to compete with the U.S.

"It's definitely going to help. There's no way that we could compete with the United States having less products and services," said Windsor West MP Brian Masse.

"This ultimately brings them back into this sphere of competition. And thankfully with the lower dollar, perhaps it gives us an opportunity to renew some of the advantages that we have for tourism."

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, said the focus for him has been the jobs this will bring back, and hopefully create in future.

"We're still pushing to get people back. We're still pushing to get different outlets open. This is another step in the right direction to get our people back working," he said, adding the union is still trying to get back to a workforce of 2,200.

He also noted that with the Canadian dollar being where it is, people from the U.S. will have an opportunity to take advantage.

"There's going to be an opportunity for them to come across the ditch as I call it and use their money almost twice on the dollar," he said.

Casino CEO Kevin Laforet said it's not just the people employed at the sportsbook that will help job numbers.

"There's a couple of dozen working in the facility itself, but really what it does is it drives traffic into the building, so you're going to see more employment of whether it be cocktail servers, bartenders, dealers, things like that because it's an amenity that draws people in," he said in a media scrum after the opening.

"They might come in, place a bet, watch a game, but then they'll go visit the gaming floor or restaurant."

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Cassidy also said he thought the creation of jobs through the electric vehicle battery plant coming to the city will boost revenues at the casino, and bring more jobs.

"There's a direct correlation to that 100 per cent," he said.

"It's that money that people have and the extra money people have, when people are working, they have that potential extra money. They love the atmosphere."

'Two-pronged approach'

Greg Warren, a reporter with Canada Sports Betting, said the sportsbook at Caesars Windsor brings a new element to the sports gambling landscape in Ontario.

Speaking on Windsor Morning Wednesday, Warren said last year brought a regulated online market for sports betting and this is the logical next step.

"There's no substitute for the social, kind of, aspect of getting together with some friends and watching a game and throwing down a wager," Warren said.

"I'll almost certainly say that at least in some capacity, most of the major casinos in Ontario will launch a sportsbook in the next couple of years."

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

He said Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ont., is renovating a space to create a sportsbook.

"A lot of these sports betting operators they want to have a very strong online product, and online app product and they also want to have comfortable sports lounges and sportsbooks for their consumers to enjoy as well in person and there's no better way to connect with your consumer than in person," he said.

"It really is a two-pronged approach and I don't know if it's the next stage in evolution but I think both of these facets are very important for sports betting operators to be successful in Ontario."

For those looking for immediate help for problem gambling, they can call Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare at 519-254-2112.

The services are free and covered by OHIP, and are open to those dealing with problem gambling or who know someone who is.