Slot machine closures ‘devastating to Ontario’: Union

Province announces the closing of 3 locations in modernization plan

The closure of three slot machine locations in Ontario will have a negative effect on the communities they’re located in, according to the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“Privatizing Ontario’s gaming facilities will be devastating to Ontario’s most vulnerable communities,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) announced on March 14 that slot machine locations Fort Erie, Windsor and Sarnia, Ont. will permanently close as part of a plan to modernize gambling in the province.

Declining traffic from the U.S. and a stronger Canadian dollar have led to recent financial troubles at the facilities, according to the OLG. Each location has seen revenue decline to the point where it was costing the province money to keep them running, the corporation said.

"We regret the impact today's decision will have on employees who are affected by these impending closures. While this was a difficult decision to make, it was necessary," OLG president and CEO Rod Phillips said in a statement. "A decade ago, border casinos returned a net profit of $800 million a year. Today, that profit is less than $100 million and falling."

The OLG is in the midst of overhauling its business in order to deliver more revenue to the government.

"In order to be more responsive to our customers as we modernize our business, we will expand, relocate and contract OLG gaming sites," Phillips said.

But this is “just the beginning,” according to Thomas.

“The Ontario government needs to address its revenue problem by implementing a fair and progressive tax system,” Thomas said. “Cutting jobs does not help our province’s bottom line.”

OPSEU represents 31 security guards who will be losing their jobs at the Windsor Raceway. The union will negotiate a closure agreement with the OLG. In total, 215 jobs will be eliminated at the facility.

When Fort Erie's racetrack closes on April 30, approximately 225 employees will be out of a job and 140 employees at Sarnia’s Hiawatha Slots say they'll also be unemployed.

The OLG also announced the possibility of building a casino in the Toronto area as part of its modernization plan.

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