The provinces lure their prey
Oct. 08, 2009
Children, let us play a game called Spot the Hypocrisy. The governments of British Columbia and Ontario are suing tobacco companies for selling cigarettes that gave people cancer. Yet those two provinces (along with Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island) are also doing their utmost to lure gambling addicts to casinos with rewards-style programs – with more than $400-million in free meals, cruises and hotel rooms. One Ontario gambler alone received more than $133,000 in gifts. Have you spotted it yet?
Total silence from the antismoking mass media droids, of course, on this pivotal, long-range study that shows yet another benefit of smoking. The reasons are obvious, and they need no further comments. If the intention of “public health” is to inform the public about the consequences of smoking on health as it proclaims, why don’t we see “warnings” such as: “Smoking Protects against Parkinson’s Disease,” or “Smoking protects against Alzheimer’s Disease,” or “Smoking protects against Ulcerative Colitis” and so on, alongside with the other speculations on “tobacco-related” disease? Isn’t the function of public health to tell the citizens about ALL the effects on health of a substance? Obviously not. “Public health,” today, is nothing more than a deceiving propaganda machine paid by pharmaceutical and public money to promote frauds, fears, and puritanical rhetoric dressed up in white coats.
The most successful gamblers are the various levels of government that are raking in the money from problem gamblers.? While government clearly recognizes the huge problem to which it’s a party.? It’s gambling that the populace’s ignorance or apathy will allow the government to continues winning at the slots and the tables. The government pays lip service to helping gamblers who are losing their jobs and their families to this addiction.
The government is also the biggest addict when it comes to tobacco;? it’s hooked on the money it makes from smokers.? In both cases, the various levels of government are patting victims on the back with one hand while extracting money from their pockets with the other hand.
Twp. worried about drop in revenues from casino -ON
Posted August 18, 2008
Posted By Lj Matheson, SUN MEDIA
If the projected revenue from the OLG Gananoque Casino Fund steadily decreases as in recent years, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands may need to look at other options for the slot machine funds, instead of depending on them to offset operating expenses.
Township council heard from the casino fund subcommittee during its regular council meeting recently where member Dave Wood painted a bleak picture of the loss of revenue since 2005, showing that the funds have decreased by 16 per cent.
“The numbers we’ve looked at are the same in Gananoque,” he said.
Since the casino opened in 2001, the township has received more than $9 million, which is its share of the five per cent of the gross slot machine revenues.
The other 2.5 per cent is Gananoque’s share in the pot.
Revenue from the casino fund in 2007 was $1,647,020.
“There has been a 16 per cent drop in revenue since 2005 and we can’t get answers to our questions regarding projections,” said Woods. “Every time we try to talk to management at a local level, they tell us their chiefs are in Toronto. This makes us a little nervous.”
The impact means township staff will have to look elsewhere to cover the cost of roads, for instance, to the tune of $173,000 if the revenue from the OLG drops by 14 per cent next year (from $1.6 million to $1.4 million in OLG cheques). In 2010, that amount would equal $314,500.
Instead of funding operational costs, the subcommittee is recommending a different plan of action.
“A real potential for the fund is to expand our economic development and to grow the tax base of the community,” said Wood.
“Our recommendation would be to consider a percentage of the (casino monies) to build a fund for the purchase of property for the expansion of economic development.
“Five per cent would equal $80,000 a year. This is a good start.”
Another option recommended is to take a portion of the fund and use it for seed money for opportunities that come up in the next little while.
Councillor Geri Dickson said she visits the casino on occasion and said more and more table games like Sic Bo (a dice game) have been introduced. Bonus Texas Hold ‘Em, which complements the already popular Texas Hold ‘Em game for which a separate room has been developed, has also been recently introduced. The standard table games of blackjack, Let it Ride poker, Caribbean stud poker and roulette are some of the more popular table games.
“There are too many tables there and not enough slot machines and the denominations are dropping to five cents and two cents so there aren’t as many proceeds from that,” Dickson said. “Unfortunately, we don’t get a portion from the card tables.”
Mayor Frank Kinsella said the funding has dropped due to the implementation of a smoke-free Ontario.
“Since it has gone non-smoking, it’s dropped in the number of visitors.”
This drops the amount of money that is spent at the casino, and in turn, the management there has reported that they are working on package deals with local motels and other businesses to increase revenues, Larry Macauley, chairman of the subcommittee, explained.
Kinsella said there is a drive-in crowd at the local casino, as opposed to the walk-in crowd at the Brantford casino, which is seeing an upward trend of users and funds generated.
“Brantford has a walk-in crowd … that’s a little different than what we have here,” Kinsella said. “In terms of working there and visiting this casino, it’s a great casino.”
Published: Monday, August 18, 2008
Tamara Gignac and Joel Kom, with files from Michelle Butterfield, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald
Calgary gaming houses push for level playing field
Faced with slumping profits, two Calgary gaming companies want the province to close a loophole in the smoking ban that permits gamblers to light up on First Nation casinos.
Gamehost Income Fund, which owns the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, reported last week that it made nearly a million dollars less in the second quarter of 2008 — a slide of more than five per cent compared to last year.
Sam Switzer, who owns the Elbow River Casino, estimates his profits are down by at least 25 per cent.
Both blame at least part of the problem on the fact First Nations casinos can still welcome smokers in their facilities, despite a provincewide smoking ban imposed on Jan. 1.
The discrepancy has dealt traditional casino owners an unfair hand, said Gamehost’s chief executive.
“People who smoke like to gamble, and of course they’ll go where they are able to smoke if the option is there for them to do it,” Craig Thomas said.
Local casinos want to meet with the province to push for all gambling establishments to follow the same rules. “It’s an unlevel playing field, one that definitely has had an impact on us and all traditional casino operators,” Thomas added.
After Alberta’s smoking ban took effect, both the Tsuu T’ina Nation, which opened the $40-million Grey Eagle Casino last December, and the Stoney Nakoda Nation, which launched the $60-million Nakoda Entertainment Resort in the spring, invoked federal bylaw exemptions for Native lands.
That let both First Nations avoid the provincial Tobacco Reduction Act, which bans smoking in all public places and workplaces, including bars, casinos and bingo halls.
“If you don’t let (people) smoke, they’ll drive for miles to find a smoking place,” Switzer said. “The Grey Eagle is doing exceptionately well. They’re taking away from all the casinos in Calgary.”
While Stoney band officials and executives from the company managing its casino declined to comment, Tsuu T’ina band council member Darryl Crowchild said the council would wait to meet and discuss the issue before commenting.
“This is something I will have to put some thought to,” he said.
Officials with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, which oversees gambling in the province, said they would prefer to see the two First Nations casinos follow the rest of the province’s lead.
“The whole idea was to protect all Alberta from second-hand smoke,” said commission spokeswoman Christine Wronko of the smoking ban.
“(The First Nations) are working with federal legislation, and we have no say in it at all.”
Harry Chase, the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Varsity, said despite his dislike of casinos, Gamehost executives have a point.
“I would love to see a blanket ban,” he said. “Being able to play the federal regulations against the provincial regulations is an unfair advantage.”
Les Hagen, executive director for anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health, said the province should use diplomacy to get smoking out of the Native casinos.
In Manitoba, for example, the government struck a deal giving one of its two Aboriginal-owned gambling facilities 300 slot machines in exchange for an agreement to go smoke-free.
“There should be health protection for all hospitality workers,” Hagen said.
Casino profits up -NS
Tue. Aug 12 – 11:26 AM
By DEVIN STEVENS
Scaling back helped bottom line — spokesman
The two Nova Scotia casinos took in less money this spring but still managed to double their earnings thanks to a series of cutbacks.
The Halifax and Sydney casinos raked in $3.1 million in the quarter that ended June 30, up from $1.5 million in the same period last year. The casinos actually took in less total revenue, dropping to $11.6 million this year from $11.7 million in 2007.
Howard Blank, spokesman for Richmond, B.C.-based owners Great Canadian Gaming Corp., said scaling back helped the company’s bottom line.
“We’ve right-sized them and done a number of initiatives to make them more guest-friendly and more right-sized to the market place,” Mr. Blank said.
“It wasn’t the layoffs; it was the actual size of the floor being reduced in size.”
Great Canadian announced in April that it would be cutting 15 per cent of its staff and cutting six operating hours from every day. At the time, Mr. Blank told The Chronicle Herald between 100 and 120 jobs would be cut from Halifax, while Sydney would also see a few job losses.
In a phone interview Monday, Mr. Blank said the April staff cuts had nothing to do with the company’s second-quarter earnings. The quarter runs from April until June 30.
Great Canadian’s second-quarter report says the Nova Scotia casinos spent $800,000 less on human resources than the same period in 2007. That accounts for half of the casinos’ $1.6-million earning jump.
“When you talk human resources, obviously that’s employees, but it doesn’t necessarily mean employees were cut,” Mr. Blank said. “It could mean hours of operation might have changed, the number of table games had changed.”
Mr. Blank said the casinos took away some slot machines and put up walls to make the gaming area smaller. He also listed better promotions, live entertainment and major name artists as reasons why earnings increased.
The Nova Scotia casinos also reported a $900,000 spending decrease on property, marketing and administration.
Liberal gaming critic Leo Glavine said the April job cuts likely helped Great Canadian’s bottom line.
“Any time you reduce staff by nearly 100, you’ve let go obligations, whether its vacation time or health benefits,” Mr. Glavine said in a phone interview Monday.
“That reduction did push the profit margins up somewhat.”
Mr. Glavine said Great Canadian will have to explain to the government how it earned twice as much money while the amount of cash coming into the casinos dropped.
“There seems to be some evidence that perhaps the employees, those who have been let go and those that currently work, they may not have gained very much in benefits from this substantial increase,” he said in a phone interview Monday.
Mr. Blank would not say the new quarterly numbers mean the Nova Scotia casinos are on stable footing.
“We’re optimistic. However, this is only one quarter,” Mr. Blank said. “We’re pleased with the initial turnaround and hope it will be able to continue.”
Published: Saturday, June 28
PAUL DELEAN, The Gazette
Company has filed for creditor protection
Quebec racetrack operator Attractions Hippiques, which filed for creditor protection this week, has estimated assets of $41 million, but owes more than $73 million to 350 suppliers and lenders, including $11 million advanced by company president Paul Massicotte, according to documents filed in Superior Court.
The company said its financial woes stem from the fact it lost $16.8 million in 2007 and collected only $2.5 million in net revenue from video lottery terminals, or VLTs, at its four racetracks from January to April this year. It was counting on $49.2 million from VLTs for the full year.
It blames Loto-Qu?bec, its partner in the ludoplex gaming centres next to the tracks in Quebec City and Trois Rivi?res, for the shortfall, claiming it placed controls on ludoplex VLTs that were not found or required for competing VLTs elsewhere in Quebec.
At the ludoplexes, players must use a card to play the machines and stipulate beforehand how much they’re prepared to lose.
Attractions Hippiques also said its inability to secure a site north of the city for a racetrack to replace Hippodrome de Montr?al has undermined its position.
It has looked at 15 sites, but none has received so far the required approval of Loto-Qu?bec or the Quebec government, suggesting they’re really not that interested in building another ludoplex, the company contends.
Without the new racetrack/ludoplex, Attractions Hippiques can’t collect any revenue from the promised 1,100 additional VLTs that would be housed there.
“Attractions Hippiques tried to negotiate with Loto-Qu?bec and the Quebec government to change terms of the (sale) agreement, without success so far,” the court filing states.
The company said it’s now unable to pay operating costs and amounts due for construction work last year at Trois Rivi?res, Quebec City and Gatineau.
Attractions Hippiques spent $14.6 million in 2007 to purchase and renovate the track in Trois Rivi?res and $22.6 million upgrading the track in Quebec City, which it rents from the municipality. Another $2.4 million went into improvements at the Gatineau track.
While contractually obligated to pay $28 million in horserace purses for the 12 months from Dec. 1, 2007, to Nov. 30, 2008, it had paid just $6.6 million through June 15.
On Thursday, court-appointed trustee RSM Richter pulled the plug on live racing at Hippodrome de Montr?al. Benoit Gingues of RSM Richter said it’s a losing proposition for the operator and the “cash outflow was too important” to continue. Racetracks at Quebec City, Trois Rivi?res and Gatineau are still presenting live cards.
Simulcast betting on races elsewhere in North America is still available at Hippodrome de Montr?al and its teletheatres, but the track’s main restaurant, Le Centaur, is closed and the backstretch stabling area will be in the near future, forcing horsemen to move their animals.
Michel St. Louis, head of the provincial horsemen’s association, said the interruption of racing in Montreal “is like a bomb. It’s just terrible for the horsemen.” “They can’t even race their horses elsewhere this weekend,” St. Louis said. “They’d already committed to racing in Montreal, and now it’s cancelled. Why are we the ones to get shafted when the conflict is between Attractions Hippiques and Loto-Qu?bec and the government?”
Loto Quebec 2008 Annual Report -QC
2008 Annual Report – Concentrating and Controlling Game Offerings (full version)
[PDF Format, 1.9 MB – Help, online as of June 30, 2008]
For individual sections see
April 03, 2008
Chris Vander Doelen, Windsor Star
WINDSOR? – Casino Windsor workers ratified a new contract with 84.7-per-cent support Thursday, avoiding a strike that their CAW executive had warned could have been catastrophic for their futures.
Local 444 president Ken Lewenza urged Casino Windsor workers to ratify a tentative agreement because “it’s as much as we can get” in tough economic times.
Several casino workers urged their fellow members to vote in favour of ratification. “Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in Canada,” one woman reminded the people filling the auditorium. “We have jobs. You might not like it, but at least you’ve got a job. ”
“I’m down $10,000 this year” in tips, a male bartender complained to other members. But he said he would vote in favour of the contract.
Some workers expressed disappointment in a wage freeze during the first two years of the three-year-deal, but Lewenza warned them to recognize that the casino “is not a cash cow as in the past.”
“I bring to you today a fair collective agreement – a good collective agreement,” Lewenza said. “We didn’t get everything we wanted but we got as much as we can.”
They agreed, by a vote of 1,763 in favour to 330 against. A cheer went up from u nion ballot counters worried about a repeat of a similar vote in 2004, when the u nion’s bargaining committee recommended acceptance and the membership turned it down.
The rejection last time led to a bitter 42-day strike that permanently damaged Casino Windsor’s market share, leading to the layoff of hundreds of its employees who never got their jobs back.
The casino now has about 3,000 u nionized workers.
Lewenza admitted he had been worried that the ratification vote might not pass, despite his urging that every one of his members approve it.
“You’re damn right I was worried we’d be forced into strike action,” he said after the vote was counted. “I know how long it took us to get to the bottom line, and I know how determined Casino Windsor was” to cut labour costs.
“These are tough economic times and I think the workers understood that.”
In two separate meetings of more than 1,000 workers each, Lewenza argued that the local needed to ratify the agreement and avoid a strike prior to the opening of the casino’s $400 million entertainment centre and luxury hotel.
If the opening fails “we could potentially be talking about a white elephant on Riverside Drive,” Lewenza warned his members.
In June, Casino Windsor will relaunch itself as a Caesars property, one of the leading brand names in the gaming industry. An entertainment centre featuring a 5,000-seat theatre dubbed “The Coliseum” will be its new centrepiece, featuring 66 major concerts and other events in its first year, and about 30 minor events.
“This is a new facility: it’s a launch,” CAW national staff representative Mickey Bertrand stressed to the membership, using automotive jargon for the all-important introduction of a new product. “It’s exciting and it’s going to offer the community a lot of new opportunity.”
Casino Windsor vice-president of corporate affairs Keith Andrews said there’s a sense of relief on the management side that the deal got approved.
“We’re at a pivotal point in our history,” he said Thursday night. “This gives us great momentum as we move forward.”
The new three-year contract – down from a four-year deal the CAW didn’t want again – has a wage freeze in the first two years and an hourly raise of 30 cents per hour for all employees in the final year.
There is a $1,500 signing bonus.
The wage freeze might not be what members wanted, Lewenza admitted, “but most people in this community are taking wage freezes because of economic conditions.”
The u nion’s main victory, the executive believes, is preventing an increase in the ratio of part-time workers in the casino. The company wanted to change the current ratio of 66 per cent full time, 33 per cent part time to 50/50, and turn some departments into all part-time workers.
The casino has seen its revenues drop precipitously in recent years due to increased border security, the rising value of the Canadian dollar, and the smoking ban in public places.
Casino Windsor has told the u nion it must cut fixed costs to remain competitive, and that 85 to 90 per cent of its costs are labour rates.
In a question-and-answer session that followed the first presentation session, not a single member of the local said publicly they would vote against the deal. U nion executives were clearly worried they might vote it down.
Housekeepers in the casino’s hotel were unhappy with the deal, which they argued doesn”t protect them from overwork which they claim is leading to injuries in the workplace.
Lewenza said the u nion tried and failed to settle the issue of housekeeper injuries at the bargaining table, but would now call in the Ministry of Labour and the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) to investigate workers’ complaints.
By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter
Sat. Apr 5 – 4:47 AM
Halifax’s casino has a new general manager, and more changes that could include layoffs are coming within weeks.
Great Canadian Gaming Corp. officials are disappointed with the performance of the Halifax and Sydney casinos and have told investors and analysts they’ll take steps to make them more profitable. The company is now in talks with the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. about changes.
Great Canadian spokesman Howard Blank said Friday that Nick Gurgulis stepped into the general manager’s job about two weeks ago, replacing Dean Gamblewest. Assistant general manager Suzanne Lalonde has also moved on, with her counterpart in Sydney now doing the job at both casinos.
Mr. Blank said he couldn’t discuss details of the senior management changes other than to say they were “amicable.”
He also said he couldn’t address rumours of the pending layoff of 100 or more people and a change in operating hours in Halifax. He said public companies are prohibited from releasing such information before the changes happen.
“There is nothing official,” Mr. Blank said.
Last month, Vincent Trudel, Great Canadian’s chief operating officer, told analysts that its Nova Scotia operations had poor results in the fourth quarter of last year, even after the British Columbia company pumped almost $1 million into marketing efforts in Nova Scotia in the second half of the year.
Gaming revenue for the two casinos was down nine per cent to $10.6 million in the fourth quarter compared with the same period in 2006, while revenue for the entire year was down six per cent to $44.6 million compared with the previous year.
“We will take immediate and major steps to improve these operations,” Mr. Trudel said in a March 10 conference call.
He said the company didn’t adjust its workforce according to its revenues, and a document for investors makes clear that will change.
“The company is taking immediate steps towards modifying future labour expenses,” Great Canadian said in a management document analyzing the fourth quarter.
Mr. Trudel said Great Canadian has started talks with the province about changing the casino’s operations, and those changes will come by June. He said the measures the company is looking at include changing the open hours. The Halifax casino is now open around the clock.
John Benoit, a spokesman for the u nion that successfully organized Halifax casino employees last year, said he and the workers are aware of talk of layoffs numbering 100 to 200, but he has heard that the layoffs would be company-wide, not just in Nova Scotia. Mr. Blank said there are about 600 employees at the Halifax casino.
And Mr. Benoit said he has also heard there could be changes to the casino’s around-the-clock hours.
“I don’t know if the rumours are factual or not because nothing has come down,” he said.
Mr. Benoit, a national organizer for the Service Employees International U nion, said he wouldn’t expect major cuts in Halifax, with tourist season around the corner and a promising outlook for cruise ship traffic.
Mr. Blank did say that whatever changes happen in Halifax aren’t a response to the u nion moving in.
Milton Woensdregt, Great Canadian’s chief financial officer, said during the March 10 conference call that the problems in Nova Scotia included six severe weather warnings and snowfalls, the smoking ban and the province’s anti-gaming messaging.
Barry Barnet, the minister for health promotion and protection, said there actually was no provincial campaign last fall, though earlier in the year there were ads targeting at-risk gamblers.
Mr. Barnet said he respects that the company has a job to do, but so does his department.
“At the end of the day, they can say what they want, but what we’re trying to do is make Nova Scotia a healthier and safer province,” Mr. Barnet said.
Great Canadian bought the casinos in 2005 and agreed to increase the province’s take from their operation. The contract has the province collecting 44.5 per cent of casino revenue rather than 65 per cent of the profit. Officials estimated the new arrangement would give the province $48 million more over a 10-year period.
Wed, March 26, 2008
By JONATHAN JENKINS
TORONTO — The wages of sin are falling — with tobacco and gambling expected to bring in significantly less revenue next year.
Fortunately for Ontario’s coffers, we may be boozing enough to make up some of the difference.
The province’s lottery sales are holding firm despite some recent scandals, but officials said the high Canadian dollar and stiff competition from the U.S. is hurting casinos.
The take from gambling is expected to fall $140 million to $1.805 billion in 2007-08, with another $33-million drop forecast for next year.
Part of that is also blamed on new regulations banning smoking in casinos, which has contributed to a continuing decline in the province’s windfall from tobacco taxes — falling from $1.236 billion in 2006-07 to $1.121 billion this year, a $115-million drop.
The revenues are expected to fall even further as Ontarians smoke less and, increasingly, turn to tax-free contraband cigarettes.
Provincial officials have not yet been able to sort out which of those factors is driving the bulk of the decline.
Meanwhile, sales are good over at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, where revenues are up $59 million to $1.366 billion, with another $54-million rise expected in 2008-09.
Job cuts, shorter hours at Casino
Apr 9, 2008
By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter
More than 100 people will lose their jobs at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax in the coming weeks, and the casino will start closing for six hours a day later this month, a spokesman for the casino’s owner said Tuesday.
Great Canadian Gaming Corp., based in Richmond, B.C., will cut 15 per cent of the roughly 800 full- and part-time workers, company spokesman Howard Blank said. He said 100 to 120 positions will go.
The company will also take other steps to try to make the casino more profitable, Mr. Blank said. New hours in Halifax will be 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., rather than 24 hours a day; there will be 89 fewer slot machines and eight fewer table games; and there will be changes to menus at the casino’s restaurants.
Mr. Blank said most of the changes in Nova Scotia will be in Halifax, although Sydney will also have fewer slots and tables and could lose a few people.
He said the changes are intended to match the casino’s capacity with the demand, though cutting staff wasn’t an easy decision.
“This isn’t something pleasant,” said Mr. Blank, the vice-president of media and entertainment.
“This is something that has painfully been analyzed and will have to be executed appropriately with dignity and respect for our employees.”
Great Canadian said last month that it was disappointed with the 2007 financial results for Halifax and Sydney, especially in the last three months of the year.
Gaming revenue for the two casinos was down nine per cent, to $10.6 million, in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period in 2006, while revenue for the entire year was down six per cent, to $44.6 million, compared to the previous year.
Vincent Trudel, the company’s chief operating officer, told analysts during a conference call in March that the company would take steps between April and June to turn that around.
Mr. Blank said he expects the layoffs to come in that time frame, and the operating hours will change this month. He said a combination of factors have led to the cuts. The casino business slowed due to a general drop in tourism, the strength of the Canadian dollar and the province’s smoking ban, he said.
Mr. Trudel last month also blamed the provincial government for anti-gaming ads.
A casino employee, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used, said managers told staff about the changes Monday morning. She said management said the new hours would start April 17.
The employee said there had been rumours of cuts for the last couple of weeks. She said some of her colleagues think Great Canadian is trying to make up for the big changes it made after buying the casinos in 2005, including a $20-million facelift at the Halifax casino in 2006.
“I think they kind of screwed themselves is what’s happening, and they’re trying to rectify it now. That’s pretty much what all the staff thinks,” she said.
The employee said staff have heard customers grumbling in the past about losing things like free parking and free meals for high rollers.
She said she isn’t particularly anxious about the pending layoffs because she’s young and single. If she’s laid off, she said, she’ll head out west and get a job.
Casino employees joined the Service Employees International U nion last year and are in the midst of negotiating their first contract.
Mr. Blank said the timing of the layoffs is a bit coincidental but emphasized they have nothing to do with the u nion. He said both u nionized and non-u nionized staff could be cut.
John Benoit, a national organizer for the u nion, said he thinks the layoffs will be based on seniority, but Mr. Blank couldn’t confirm that.
Mr. Blank didn’t have details of the severance packages. Michaela Becker, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp., said Great Canadian is responsible for all the costs associated with the changes, since they’re operating costs.
Under the contract with Great Canadian, the province receives 44.5 per cent of casino revenue rather than the 65 per cent of the profit under the previous owner. Officials estimated in 2005 that the new arrangement would give the province $48 million more over a 10-year period.
Mr. Blank said Tuesday that Halifax will be left with 525 slot machines, and another 100 will be available to players when the casino is “packed.” The number of tables will go down to 32 from 40.
In Sydney, 21 older slot machines will be removed, leaving 316, and the number of tables will be trimmed to eight from 13.
Mr. Blank said Great Canadian wants to create a more intimate, fun setting for patrons in Halifax and will focus marketing efforts on entertainment in the showrooms and on the gaming floor itself.
He said the casino faces a problem because of some people’s perception that it’s merely doing anything it can to take their money when it’s really an entertainment venue.
“I think that’s the biggest problem. . . . We need to get people on our property to understand who we are,” he said. “We’re a Canadian company, as I mentioned before, and that’s really important. This isn’t some behemoth of a U.S. operating company that doesn’t care. We care about not only the people but we care about Nova Scotians.”
Great Canadian owns casinos in British Columbia and Washington state, besides those in Nova Scotia. The company also owns horse racing tracks in British Columbia and Ontario.
Mr. Blank said the company has cut a total of 200 people from its operations so far this year.
November 16, 2007
Jason Fekete, with a file from Tony Seskus and Sean Myers, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald
Most public places must butt out Jan. 1
Smokers across Alberta, particularly those in and around Calgary, may have won a bit of a reprieve from the provincewide smoking ban.
The provincial government conceded Thursday its new smoking ban — set to take effect Jan. 1 — likely won’t force patrons at Indian casinos to butt out.
That spells good news for the Tsuu T’ina Nation, bordering Calgary, and the Stoney Nation west of the city — which are opening multimillion-dollar casinos — although native leaders are livid the province didn’t consult them on the issue.
Peter Manywounds, special projects consultant for Tsuu T’ina Nation, says the tribe does not expect the province’s ban on smoking in public places will affect the casino the tribe will open in mid-December.
It’s an early Christmas gift for smokers who are counting down the days before the provincewide ban, but it riled opposition parties and anti-smoking groups.
While the ban prohibits lighting up in public places and workplaces across Alberta, government officials admit First Nations can likely introduce their own bylaws that would supercede provincial legislation on reserve land.
“It’s a law of general application. So unless there’s a federal law or reserve bylaw that’s different, it should have application across the province,” Health Minister Dave Hancock told reporters Thursday. “That’s one of the idiosyncrasies of our country. . . . We have certain jurisdictions with respect to reserves.”
Alberta Health spokeswoman Shannon Haggarty noted that most tribes will have the option of challenging the smoking ban.
“I believe their bylaws would supercede (the legislation),” Haggarty said.
Bill 45, the Tobacco Reduction Act, passed through the legislature this week and will slap a provincewide ban on smoking in all public places and workplaces, including bars, casinos and bingo halls — establishments exempted from the current provincial law.
It will also prohibit visible store tobacco displays, or so-called “power walls,” as of July 1, and prevent all post-secondary campuses, health-care institutions, pharmacies and supermarkets containing pharmacies from selling the cancer-causing products by the start of 2009.
But First Nations officials with both the Tsuu T’ina and Stoney nations said they’re disappointed the government didn’t bother to consult them, and were adamant that provincial laws don’t apply on their land.
“The Tsuu T’ina does not expect the Tobacco Reduction Act applies on nation lands,” said Peter Manywounds, special projects consultant to the Tsuu T’ina, which is preparing to open a $40-million casino in mid-December.
“We are surprised and disappointed that Alberta (government) did not consult with us, as they are obliged to do.”
The 100,000-square-foot Grey Eagle Casino, tucked inside Tsuu T’ina land southwest of Glenmore Trail and 37th Street S.W., will showcase 600 slot machines, 58 gaming tables and a 15-table poker room — all open seven days a week.
First Nations leaders recognize a smoking ban could gut business by deterring people who like to light up while trying Lady Luck.
But Manywounds insisted it’s not an issue of smoking.
“This issue is, Who actually has jurisdiction?” he said. “In this case, and it sounds like the province agrees, we have jurisdiction.”
Longtime casino owner Frank Sisson said the Tsuu T’ina’s gaming operation is gaining a competitive advantage by not having to comply with the new law.
“Certainly, it will make a difference,” said Sisson. “It’ll give them one more edge over the rest of us. The rules should apply to everyone.”
Further west, on the Stoney reserve near Kananaskis Country, native leaders said the government has no say whether the smoking ban will apply on reserve lands — including at its casino.
The tribe is slated to open its $60-million Nakoda Entertainment Resort between mid-February and early March, according to Su-hin Chee, the Stoney’s chief financial officer.
The facility, located at the junction of Highway 40 and the Trans-Canada Highway, will feature a 110-room hotel, swimming pool, fitness centre, small conference centre, 170-seat restaurant and 175-seat lounge, 300 slot machines and 15 gaming tables.
Just as important, it will also permit smoking.
“A provincial law doesn’t apply to First Nations,” Chee said. “We don’t anticipate a smoking ban on the casino.”
Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft argued the issue is a political hot potato, but said he would prefer the smoking ban applies across the province, including First Nations lands.
“The health issues are the same whether you’re on reserve or off reserve,” Taft said. “The day will come when the same restrictions will apply, or ought to apply on reserves that apply everywhere else.”
Anti-smoking advocate Les Hagen — who lauded news of the provincewide smoke ban — believes the new rules should apply equally across Alberta.
Exempting First Nations communities would create an uneven playing field that would lead to problems, said Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.
“Obviously, casinos that are not on First Nations communities would likely suffer to those that are,” he said, adding he doesn’t want to see businesses put at a disadvantage for being smoke-free.
“More importantly, we believe that everyone deserves full protection from second-hand smoke,” he said.
By TARINA WHITE, SUN MEDIA
Owners decry First Nation decision to dodge ban
Calgary casino operators are fuming that First Nations consider themselves exempt from a provincial smoking ban taking effect in the new year.
Rod Proudfoot, general manager of Calgary Stampede Casino, is concerned this will create an unlevel playing field, hurting the casino and its charities.
“It’s a double whammy — our charities will have less and we will have less,” he said, adding the community-owned casino funnels all its profits to local charities.
“They’re going to go down as a result of this inequity, so it means less money to put back into the community.”
The Tsuu T’ina First Nation says it won’t adhere to a provincewide smoking ban because reserve land is under federal jurisdiction, said spokesman Peter Manywounds.
“In this case, our bylaw supersedes the Alberta bill,” he said.
On Wednesday, the government approved a province-wide smoking ban in all public spaces and workplaces as of New Year’s Day.
Alberta Health spokeswoman Shannon Haggarty said First Nations can introduce their own bylaws that supersede the legislation.
Frank Sisson, general manager of Frank Sisson’s Silver Dollar Casino, said his business will suffer if First Nations allow patrons to light up at their casinos.
“People that like to smoke will definitely go to a reserve casino and smoke rather than stand outside,” he said.
Sisson said he expects his business to initially drop about 10% when the smoking ban comes into effect.
He said he hopes business will rebound, but added that may not happen if First Nations allows smoking.
Ald. Joe Ceci, one of the more vocal members of council in fast-tracking the city’s own anti-smoking bylaw, said he was disappointed to hear at least one First Nations casino won’t be butting out.
“It’s a concern that a place almost within the borders of Calgary would provide an option for people to smoke.”
November 15, 2007
Chris Thompson, Windsor Star
Down more than 2,000 jobs since 9-11 crisis
Another round of layoffs was announced Wednesday at Casino Windsor, with 170 u nionized staff laid off and 36 accepting buyout packages.
In addition, 23 non-u nion employees were laid off Tuesday, bringing the total number of jobs eliminated this week to 229.
“The jobs are from all levels and all departments,” said Casino Windsor spokeswoman Holly Ward. “This is certainly a tough week for us.”
The layoffs of the u nionized workers are based on seniority.
Ward blamed a convergence of factors, including the high Canadian dollar, the confusion over passport requirements and the perception of border delays by the casino’s predominantly American clientele, leading to an unprecedented decline in business.
Ontario’s smoking ban is also believed to be a factor.
MGM Grand casino in Detroit recently opened its US$800 million permanent location complete with a 400-room hotel to provide added competition.
Ward said that in addition to the job cuts, the high-end restaurant Cache will close immediately and the hours at the V.I.P. table game room have been reduced.
Another restaurant will be developed to replace Cache, Ward said.
“We’re looking at redevelopment options for that restaurant,” said Ward.
The cuts will bring Casino Windsor’s total staffing level to about 3,000, down more than 2,000 from the 5,200 employees on the payroll prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.
Local 444 president Ken Lewenza gave credit to the casino for engaging the u nion in layoff discussions months before the official announcement was made Wednesday, and working with the u nion to minimize the impact.
“We collectively monitored the situation, so there was more anticipation this time of the layoff numbers than of any other time,” Lewenza said Wednesday night. “In the past they would just tell us ‘Hey, we’re just laying this many off,’ and we’d all be scrambling trying to find out how we can minimize the pain on our members.”
This time around, talks started about three or four months ago between the u nion and the casino, Lewenza said.
“It’s been a very co-operative approach in trying to minimize the pain,” he said.
Lewenza said it will take four or five weeks before workers begin their layoffs.
“We’ve asked the casino to allow workers an opportunity to sever their employment with the severance package and they’ve agreed to that,” he said. “We’re doing some creative things to minimize the pain on our members and to date the casino’s showed a willingness to look at all the options that are available to us.”
Despite the difficulties the casino is experiencing, Ward said the construction of the 5,000-seat entertainment theatre and convention centre and the conversion to Caesars Windsor provide hope.
“These are really tough times for Casino Windsor right now but there’s a really bright future for Caesars Windsor,” said Ward.
“We’re just dealing with the reality of today, November 2007.”
CREATE 400 JOBS
The $400-million centre and hotel tower will create 400 new jobs, which will bring back previously laid off staff.
Ward said the Caesars brand and high-profile entertainers at the concert hall will boost business.
“You don’t have too many businesses that have the ability to rebrand themselves,” said Ward.
“It will provide more reasons to come. There’s a lot to be excited about, but unfortunately we have to deal with reality this week.”
The opening of the expansion and the rebranding are expected to take place next spring.
On Wednesday workers began installing the roof on the new hotel tower, Ward said, adding that construction is on schedule despite a labourer’s strike earlier this year.
2000: $838.5 million
2001: $747.5 million
2002: $647.9 million
2003: $612.8 million
2004: $513.5 million
2005: $424.6 million
2006: $440.8 million
2007: $320 million
October 24, 2007
The cheque sent quarterly to the City of Windsor from Windsor Raceway’s slots operation is down 10 per cent from the same quarter last year, and down 26 per cent from two years ago.
Last week, the city received $458,511 or five per cent of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation slots revenue at Windsor Raceway. The payment was for the host city’s second-quarter share of slots revenue.
While quarterly revenues peaked in July 2004 at $933,073 because of a Casino Windsor strike, most quarterly payments were around $620,000 in robust gambling years. To date, Windsor has received $20.9 million from the raceway slots, which have attracted a total of 7.6 million visitiors since opening in late 1998.
The drop, according to OLGC spokeswoman Teresa Roncon, can be blamed on the increasing strength of the Canadian dollar, border hassles and Ontario’s non-smoking rules, which continue to discourage American customers.
October 24, 2007
Chris Thompson, Windsor Star
Three vice-presidents at Casino Windsor were dismissed as the gambling palace deals with a drop of $120 million in revenues due to the high Canadian dollar, the smoking ban, confusion over passport requirements and perceived border backups.
The three, vice-president of human resources Ken Difederico, vice-president of resort operations Liam Sneyd and vice-president of table games Grant Darling, were notified of their termination on Monday.
“What happened is we had a reorganization of our senior management level,” said casino spokeswoman Holly Ward.
“Responsibilities for those areas have been reassigned to members of the executive team.”
Ward said the casino had operated with essentially the same management setup since it opened in 1998.
“The senior management structure we had has been in operation for a decade and it is no longer reflective of the reality we are dealing with today,” said Ward.
“It’s a big change from the heady days of the 90’s.”
Ward cited the province-wide smoking ban, rising gas prices, confusion over passport requirements at the border and the high value of the Canadian dollar as contributing factors that are keeping the casino’s American clientele away.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been dealing with an extremely challenging environment the last few years,” said Ward.
When the Canadian dollar was low and American gamblers could get 50 cents on every greenback it was easy for the casino to market that to their advantage, Ward said.
“There is not competitive dollar advantage any more,” said Ward.
“We have lost an important leveraging tool.”
The Canadian dollar was trading in the neighbourhood of $1.03 U.S. Wednesday.
Figures recently released by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation show that revenues at Casino Windsor fell to $320 million for the year ending March 31, 2007 down from $440.7 million the previous year, for a year-to-year drop of $120 million.
For the first quarter of this year from April to June revenues were $77.9 million, down from $94.4 million last year.
Ward said the decision to let the members of the management team was difficult as they all had extensive experience with the company.
“You have to balance everything,” said Ward.
“The fact of the matter is we have to deal with the realities of today.”
Ward said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” as construction continues on the $400 million expansion that will see a new 400-room hotel wing and a 5,000-seat amphitheatre.
The casino will also be renamed Caesars Windsor in the spring.
“It’s coming along and we are all very excited about it,” said Ward.
CAW Local 444 President Ken Lewenza said he received a phone call from casino CEO Kevin Laforet advising him of the firings.
“It’s obviously a sign of the times,” said Lewenza.
“It’s obvious the business pressures Casino Windsor is facing today has been worsened by so many factors.”
Lewenza, who dealt with all three of the fired men during contract negotiations, described them as “decent managers.”
“They are going to be missed,” said Lewenza.
“I’m concerned about job loss no matter whether it’s management or workers. Of course my concern is with the workers but the signal this sends is not a good one.”
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