Gateway Casinos says job cuts in northern Ontario not a bad sign for gambling business

A year after they were taken over by a private company, jobs are being trimmed at northern Ontario's casinos. The company says these are just operational adjustments, but the union says there could be more to it.

7 layoffs at casino in Sudbury, several more to come in Sault Ste. Marie

Gateway Casinos says the seven layoffs at its Sudbury location are as of a result of modernizing the operation at the former racetrack in Azilda. (Erik White/CBC )

A year after they were taken over by a private company, jobs are being trimmed at northern Ontario's casinos.

The company says these are just operational adjustments, but the union says there could be more to it.

Seven jobs are being shed at the casino in Sudbury and several more layoffs are to come in Sault Ste. Marie, with the exact numbers still to be worked out.

Gateway Casinos communications director Rob Mitchell says this comes from modernizing the outdated facilities they took over from the province last year.

He says automation means they don't need as many cashiers or security guards.

"We've been trying very consciously to improve the efficiency of our service delivery at our sites and enhance our customer experience," says Mitchell.

Financial information now private

Mitchell says Gateway Casinos is forbidden to publicly discuss its finances under the terms of its agreement with Ontario Lottery and Gaming, which, when it operated the casinos, did release data on the annual revenue and number of visitors to each casino.

But Richard Paquin, national representative with Unifor which represents the 60 casino workers in Sudbury, wonders if that deal is making it tough for Gateway to turn a profit.

"Because OLG is still requiring those operators to provide a percentage, it leaves less for the casinos to be able to operate as operators," says Paquin.

The "temporary" casino opened in Sault Ste. Marie in 1999. As of 2013, it was attracting about 1,700 visitors a day and brings in $20.6 million in annual revenue, but both of those numbers had been steadily declining in the previous years.

Both Gateway and the union are hopeful that a new multi-million dollar casino planned for Sudbury will see these laid off workers hired back, plus as many as 200 more.

Sudbury city council approved plans for a new $60 million casino on the Kingsway earlier this year.

But now about a dozen individual appeals have been filed with the provincial Land Planning Appeal Tribunal, which has until the end of the year to make a ruling. 

"Well, I don't want to describe it as a small bump in the road. It's a challenge. I don't know what the outcome of those appeals will be. I hope we get the greenlight to go forward," says Mitchell.

He says Gateway is still in the process of acquiring land for its new casino in North Bay and Gateway is also planning improvements to the casino in Sault Ste. Marie, but no decisions have been made yet.

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury, Ont. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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