Windsor plans $400 million expansion
reported by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Ontario - The Ontario government, spurred on by competition
from the Detroit casinos, announced plans Monday for a $400-million
expansion and renovation of Casino
expansion, which includes a 400-room hotel tower, a 5,000-seat
theater and 100,000 square feet of convention space, is intended
to snare more tourism and business conventions. The project
will take three years to complete. Groundbreaking is expected
convention center would not compete with Cobo Center's more
than 700,000 square feet of exhibit space. Ontario officials
said they had not determined what sorts of convention business
they would chase for the new facility.
investment also includes a face-lift of the casino,
but no new slot machines or table games are part of the plan.
enjoy a very hearty and friendly competitive relationship with
our friends in Detroit. After today, it will get a lot friendlier,"
said Sandra Pupatello, an Ontario parliament member who represents
opened in 1998. It gets 80 percent of its business from U.S.
gamblers. Built at a cost of $500 million, the casino boasts
a 389-room hotel, a cozy 230-seat theater, restaurants and a
VIP area on three floors.
gaming revenues have fallen about 30 percent since the 9/11
terrorist attacks slowed border crossings. And the recent strength
of the Canadian dollar means Americans find their dollar doesn't
stretch quite as far across the river.
Windsor drew nearly $600 million (U.S.) in annual revenue
before the 2001 attacks. Now, the casino is drawing about $416
million a year. It laid off 201 workers in January. And daily
traffic has fallen from around 18,000 before 9/11 to about 13,000
visitors a day now.
profits will pay for the project. It's expected to create about
7,000 temporary construction jobs and 400 permanent casino jobs,
Laforet, Windsor Casino Ltd. president and CEO, said it's unlikely
the casino will regain all the revenue ground lost after the
9/11 terrorist attacks, but the non-gaming attractions will
help it compete.
were pretty heady times. We were No. 1 before 9/11," Laforet
said. "It gives us everything we need to put Casino Windsor
back where we belong--the leader in our market.
is the non-gaming offerings that drive the visits. It is not
an exaggeration to say these are Las Vegas-style amenities."
said the size of the 5,000-seat auditorium and theater was determined
after the company did extensive research on the type of facility
needed to draw big-name acts, boxing matches and touring shows
such as Riverdance.
about giving the casino an edge," said Joe Cordiano, Ontario
Minister of economic trade and development. "Just across
the river in Detroit there are three casinos vying for the same
business. Without this investment, Casino
Windsor may have fallen behind in an increasingly competitive
the Detroit casinos operators have carved out a $1.18- billion
industry without flashy Las Vegas-style offerings. With hotels
and large auditoriums, Detroit would have a shot at becoming
a regional gambling attraction.
Detroit casino operators are anxious to start construction on
their own gaming palaces while waiting for a lawsuit to be resolved,
spokesman Roger Martin said: "We welcome any good competition."
Casino spokeswoman Jackie Woods said: "The addition
of more quality hotels, convention space and entertainment options
will only prove to be a value of the entire area."
injunction barring construction of permanent facilities imposed
by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals still stands. The Lac
Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians sued the
Detroit casinos, saying the city's 1997 bidding process for
the licenses was unconstitutional. The appeals court agreed.
casinos settled with the tribe, MGM Grand Detroit has not. The
appeals court is not expected to reach a decision on the case
until late this year.