Ottawa·Special Report

Impact of a downtown casino in Ontario

The City of Ottawa has shown interest in opening a new casino but the future location is unclear. The Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation has said it wants casinos in popular areas, much like Windsor, which opened a waterfront downtown casino 18 years ago.

Ups and downs of Windsor's downtown casino a learning tool for Ottawa's casino plans

Gambling problems accentuated


8 years ago
Stories of problem gambling at Windsor casino. Casino's social impact, CBC TV at 5 p.m. Thurs. 4:20

Steve Fischer

The CBC's Steve Fischer travelled to Windsor to speak with people there about the impact of a downtown casino.

The City of Ottawa has officially made its interest known in opening a new casino and the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation has been public with a desire to put a gaming facility in the heart of any city that gets one.

Few Ontario cities have casinos and the first to take the leap was Windsor, 18 years ago. CBC News spoke to residents, stakeholders, gamblers and the OLG to gauge what impact a downtown casino has had on the city's downtown core.

The casino was part of an economic boom in the late 1990s but tightened border security and the improved Canadian dollar hurt the gaming centre.

Jobs have been cut, homes have been boarded up, business in surrounding areas has disappeared and the casino has been hurt by the opening of other gaming centres in Detroit, just across the U.S.-Canada border.

Even though the casino rebranded itself in 2008 as the Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino, the recession that same year hurt the city's economy and hiked Windsor's unemployment rate to 12.5 per cent.

The city's unemployment rate remains tied for second in the country at 9 per cent, tied with London, Ont., and just behind Oshawa, Ont., at 9.1 per cent.

While crime rates are down in the southern Ontario city, population has also decreased. But the question is, how would Windsor look post-recession if the casino did not exist?

Economic and social effects

WATCH | Steve Fischer looks at the casino's effect on Windsor's economy and whether Ottawa should move forward with its casino plans. Plus, how does the closeness and accessibility of a downtown casino affect some residents.

One financial advisor did say there has been an increase in bankruptcies filed by gambling addicts since the casino opened.

There are varying views on whether the casino has had a positive or negative effect, as CBC News found out while speaking to a variety of stakeholders in Windsor.

But Windsor residents were generally supportive of Ottawa's plan for a new casino.

Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino facts

  • Roman theme.
  • Two hotel towers: "Forum" is 23 stories with 389 rooms, "Augustus" (opened in 2008) is 27 stories with 369 rooms
  • 100,000 square feet of gaming space
  • 100,000-square-foot convention centre (opened in 2008)
  • 5,000-seat space for shows (opened in 2008)
  • Boom years in late 1990s, hurt by increase in border security after attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and improved Canadian dollar
  • Exchange rate motivating Canadians to cross U.S. border to gamble in Detroit