Where have all the slot machines gone?
After the Caesar Windsor casino-hotel complex’s grand opening in mid-1998, the provincial authority, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), would go on to allow Ontario’s three racetracks to install slot machines, video poker and other electronic games in effort to prop up sagging revenues. While not yet running in the red, income (and thus tax revenue for local government) was in the decline.
Particularly at the Windsor Raceway, this strategy seemed to be working. OLG Slots at Windsor Raceway by year’s end 2011 was host to some 750 slot games and was employing over 240 (!) workers in the casino setup alone. Yet profit was not enough and early 2012 saw the announcement that the slot games at Windsor Raceway and two other racetracks in Ontario would be removed. Why? “To ensure Caesars Windsor remains healthy,” explained an OLG representative at that time.
Much of the reason for the Caesars Windsor’s decline in income was the increasingly unfavourable exchange rate on the U.S. dollar against the Canadian dollar. Since this larger macroeconomic issue could not be addressed by the OLG, the authorities apparently decided that catering to American tourists was more important than fostering a homegrown industry for Canadian visitors. (Cynical, perhaps, but that’s how it shakes out.)
Ostensibly part of an effort to address the province’s debt by 2018, the decision instead resulted in over 550 layoffs. Not only this, but thanks to the 100% drop in slots revenue, the Windsor Raceway itself closed in four months, exactly three years shy of its 50th anniversary of continuous operation.
To date, no new casinos or casino rooms have opened in Windsor – but the Caesars is still attracting 6 million visitors per year.
The Caesars Windsor Casino: The only game in town
With the OLG firmly in Caesars’ corner, the only game in Windsor is there. To its credit, the Caesars Windsor is indeed a world-class facility in line with Caesars properties worldwide. Two hotel towers make up the casino grounds, which include all the amenities of a full-scale gaming center: restaurants, shopping, a performing arts center (known by the lofty name “The Coliseum”), etc.
At the centre are the video slots and video poker machines; Caesars Windsor touts its large collection of progressive slots and even progressive jackpot video poker, and these games are true quite a draw for the casino. Perhaps due to the loosening of online gambling law in the U.S., Caesars Windsor allows players to try their “bricks-and-mortar” slots machines online via the casino’s official website.
Caesars Windsor has all the standard table games in play whenever the casino is open: baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, Pai Gow poker, Caribbean stud and Let It Ride are all on offer. Caesars Windsor also hosts a unique import from south of the border, a riff on blackjack which they call “Super 4 Progressive Blackjack.”
In this game, aside bet may get the player and opportunity to combine his/her hand with the dealer's so as to make up a 4-card poker hand (and hopefully recoup some losses).
Particularly of note at the Caesars Windsor is the sportsbook operation at the Legends Sports Bar. Opened in 2006, this sportsbook represents the first such outlet of its kind in the entire country. Would-be punters from foreign lands should be advised that sports betting in Canada works a little differently than in most countries due to prevailing law set out by the Criminal Code. Expect “pool play”- and parlay-type offerings, rather than straightforward single-game wagers. (You might want to brush up on your hockey and Canadian Football League knowledge, too…)
Will an expansion ever come to Windsor casinos?
It certainly doesn’t seem likely with the aforementioned privileged position the Caesars Windsor currently holds in Windsor. In 2017, casino executives reported a consistent increase in the number of American tourists to the gaming resort, but this will hardly break the Las Vegas guys’ dominance in this Canadian town.
Online gambling law in Windsor and Ontario
Like most of Canada, Windsor’s laws on internet gambling are made at the provincial level of government. As it stands, the government-approved Play Now is the only fully approved site for Ontario citizens. The reality is, however, that even Canada’s own lawmakers have referred to anti-online gambling laws that are impossible to enforce and not one Canadian citizen has ever been charged with playing casino games online.
Since the Canadian Criminal Code has no explicit wording regarding playing online, one’s ability to do so is left up to the individual operators and financial institution(s) holding your account. While Canadian banks which are majority-owned by U.S. business interests will usually not process any transaction to or from a casino website, local banks and credit unions most often will.