Caesars Windsor celebrates 10th anniversary with big-name acts

Caesars Windsor kicked off its 10th anniversary celebrations Wednesday.

Casino has been a tourism driver for 20 years, 10 under the Caesars brand

Casino celebrates 10 years as Caesars Windsor. (CBC File Photo)

Caesars Windsor kicked off its 10th anniversary celebrations Wednesday with an announcement of upcoming acts.

Pitbull, Blink 182 and Russell Peters are among the big names that will be coming to the Colosseum during the year-long celebration.

The casino rebranded itself under the Caesars name in June of 2008 with the intention of increasing its profits and market share.

"It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since we turned on the top of the Caesars tower ... [and] we introduced the total rewards program," said casino president Kevin Laforet, standing on the stage at the Colosseum theatre that singer Billy Joel christened ten years ago this June.

Caesars Windsor will be announcing more acts as part of their 10th anniversary celebration in the coming weeks. (Jonathon Pinto/CBC )

Since then, the venue has attracted 2.3 million visitors. The casino has become one of Windsor's biggest tourist draws and employers, but there are fewer workers there now than there was then — 2,300 compared to about 4,000 in its heyday.

Passport requirements in the U.S., no smoking laws, a high Canadian dollar and a recession made for some tough times. But Unifor Local 444 president James Stewart, who represents the workers at the casino, says times have improved.

"Ultimately, I think our members at Caesars have recognized that their lives have improved as a result of unionism. As a result of collective bargaining and moving the needle forward," said Stewart.

Single sports betting fight still on

Former CAW president Ken Lewenza says even though laurels are part of the Caesars logo, the casino can't rest on them.

"You always have to redefine yourself. You have to see what competitors are doing," said Lewenza. "As you know for the past few years we've been trying to deal with the sports betting question."

Caesars Windsor is a top tourism driver for the region. (Jonathon Pinto/CBC)

The Federal Liberal government rejected pleas from local officials and casinos across Canada to legislate single sports betting, but Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Matt Marchand says they intend to make it an election issue next year.

"We're going to continue to push that forward," he said. "When Liberals were in opposition we thought we had them on board for that. It didn't pan out ... but we're going to continue to push."

City has received $62M for hosting casino

Marchand said the entertainment alone at Caesars has given Windsorites a unique experience and overall continues to be the city's top tourism driver.

"They bring in almost 5,000 people 50 times a year to our downtown core for different events, so they're a big trip generator," explained Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

CBC has requested information on the revenues generated by the casino in the past 10 years, but we has not heard back from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission.

The casino has paid the city $62.2 million dollars over the past nine years to cover costs of infrastructure and policing related to the casino.

Dale Molnar