Is Caesars' Windsor's success crowding out other downtown hotels? (con't)

But the Hilton’s new owners reportedly are either going to downgrade the 300-plus room hotel – the long time “go to” place for out of town dignitaries - into a Best Western or, failing union concessions, a condo complex.

The owners – London’s Farhi Holdings and Hamilton’s Vrancor Group – also have converted the neighbouring Riverside Inn (former Radisson) into student housing.

The Hilton didn’t respond to requests for information as to what sparked the ending of the brand’s name here.

But surely one of the questions that must be asked is the role of Caesars Windsor’s two giant hotels - the Forum and the Augustus which together have 758 rooms – and their impact on the rest of downtown’s hotels.

No one from Caesars Windsor returned calls asking for comment.

The hotels, as part of the casino, are regulated by the Ontario government.

But Ab Campion of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission said information related to Caesars’ occupancy rates is a “private business thing” and it would be up to the hotel to provide that information.

“I mean that would be a competitive thing. Think of yourself if you owned a hotel whether you’d want to give out that information and let your competitors know whether you’re doing very well or not very well,” he said.

Dave Cassidy of Unifor Local 444, which represents casino workers, suggested occupancy “is up over 80 percent” at the casino hotels.

And he said the casino “is not stupid,” and even on low-traffic nights knows how to draw guests, with attractions like product “giveaways.”

While some 60 Hilton workers have received layoff notices the casino as a whole employs “just under 3000” salary and unionized staff, Cassidy said, with 38 people on layoff.

Larry Horwitz, who chairs the downtown BIA, said the casino hotels obviously compete heavily with other nearby hotels which include Days Inn, Quality Suites, Travelodge and the Holiday Inn.

 The recent provincially-approved ending of Caesars Windsor’s annual $315,000 contribution to the BIA – about a third of the BIA’s budget - also will hardly help, Horwitz said.

The casino, citing economic hard times itself, seeked to end the funding. It was meant to offset the casino’s competition with other downtown businesses and “compete in a fair manner,” Horwitz said.

The casino does not pay a BIA levy like other businesses but Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says its activities, such as concerts, result in spinoff business to the rest of downtown.

While the BIA funding is ending the city will receive an increase in financial support from the province for hosting the casino – more than $3 million this year and more than $4 million next.

Horwitz said non-casino hotels are “eroding” in market share in the city's core. 

He said this is ironic given the city’s efforts to redevelop downtown.

 “My assumption was you build a convention centre (then) downtown hotels would be building, you build a pool (then) hotels would be building - correct? - they would be expanding.”

Representatives of most of the hotels didn’t respond to comment requests.

But Quality Suites manager Stephanie Middleton said her hotel has “some renovations and changes” planned over the next year to stay competitive and she understands other hotels are doing the same.

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