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Land-Based Casino Sector Presses Concerns as Ontario iGaming Opening Looms

by Ralph Trayfalgar Updated:

In light of the impending legislation and launch of locally regulated new casino sites in Ontario, business and labour leaders continue to press their concerns on the provincial government as the well-being of the province’s land-based casinos could be in jeopardy.

A recent study from an independent consultant found that the land-based casino sector could eventually lose up to a quarter of its active workforce when online gambling in Ontario is legalised on April 4, 2022. In particular, up to 100 employees handling the games and casino at Caesars Windsor could be lost as a direct consequence of this measure. 

Chris MacDonald, assistant to Unifor President Jerry Dias, has said, “We are looking at significant job losses and unfair playing field. It’s still unknown how many (online) casino gaming companies will be launched, but it will have a significant impact on current operations, union jobs and revenues.”

In previous years, real money casinos have been monopolised by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG), but the provincial government has permitted the expansion of the market to include the private sector.

The newly formed iGaming Ontario (iGO) will be able to issue e-gaming licences to hundreds of worldwide organisations that provide online sports betting, slots games, poker services and bingo games online. This will be the first time that online gaming services will be available to the general public in Canada.

The government is taking this step in order to capture a portion of the billions of dollars in gambling dollars that Canadians spend online in the “grey market,” where accounts are set up in the United States or overseas in order to place sports wagers, play poker, or any number of other games on sites such as Draft Kings, Betway, or Jackpot City Canada. For the first time, these businesses will be able to operate lawfully in Ontario as a result of this legal change.

Pushback

In a letter to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, Rocco Rossi, President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, expressed his concerns about iGaming, stating that “Ontario’s approach may come at the expense of current revenue and employment sources our communities depend on.” 

According to opponents, the government’s plan to impose just a 20 percent “tax” on all earnings from each internet gambling operation is a major source of contention. By comparison, land-based casinos in Ontario are required to fork over 50 percent of their revenues to the government. Rossi called for a tax rate for these online gaming companies that was more competitive with that of land-based venues.

These sentiments were also echoed by local MPP Percy Hatfield (NDP — Windsor-Tecumseh), who called on the federal government to offer guarantees that no employment or income will be lost as a result of the legalisation of online gaming.

Hatfield says the government must ensure that, once the iGaming sector is opened, land-based gaming workers are safeguarded, that laid-off people are able to return to work, and that the province should not lose present earnings from casino gambling, which are used to pay services such as education and health care.

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