UPDATE (10:10 a.m.)
Gateway issued the following statement about today's layoffs:
Since becoming the private sector service provider to Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) for Central Ontario in July 2018, Gateway Casinos has been actively reviewing these casino operations with a goal of maximizing their efficiency and providing the best customer experience possible.
After detailed analysis of the central gaming market and current operations, Gateway has made the difficult decision to reduce staff levels at its two gaming site locations in central Ontario.
The reasons for these staff adjustments include reduced hours of operation at the dining outlets, investments in new technology (new security and surveillance systems, Gaming Management System, other automation), and other basic business efficiencies. The majority of the staff reductions were made through a voluntary exit incentive program and staff reassignments. The remainder of the reductions were achieved through layoffs.
Gateway does not take the decision to reduce staff lightly. We examined all options and despite best efforts to minimize the impact on staff, these reductions are a necessary step as we maximize efficiency and begin the next stages of expansion to provide the best gaming entertainment experience across Ontario to our customers.
Gateway remains committed to growth in the Ontario market through the addition of newly constructed casinos set for development in London, Chatham-Kent, North Bay, Wasaga Beach, Kenora, and Sudbury, as well as newly renovated sites in Point Edward, Hanover and Woodstock. These new developments and renovated projects will lead to additional job creation across Ontario and those staff who have been impacted by recent operational changes are encouraged to apply for these and other employment opportunities at Gateway properties across Ontario and Western Canada.
Over the next two and a half years, Gateway will be investing more than $300 million into the Ontario economy and when work is completed at all its sites, Gateway will have created more than 2,000 new jobs in Ontario.
Today is going to be a dark day for dozens of employees at Casino Rama.
Gateway Casinos, the company that owns the casino east of Orillia, announced late yesterday its intention to lay off 65 full-time employees and five part-time employees who occupy positions that "have been identified for displacement."
“Words cannot begin to describe the amount of disappointment and anger we all share in this decision,” said Corey Dalton, the president of Unifor Local 1090.
He said Gateway announced the layoffs exactly one year after it took over the casino - the earliest date at its disposal.
“Gateway has wasted no time and literally provided notice of layoffs on the first day they were legally entitled to,” said Dalton.
Gateway did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story.
Dalton and employees reached by OrilliaMatters said the new owner is “dismantling” the casino.
“Over the past 365 days under Gateway Casinos, one thing has become clear above all else: Gateway Casinos value profits before people,” said Dalton.
“We have watched Gateway take a casino that was once the crown jewel of the province and dismantle it within 365 days.”
That was a sentiment echoed by a long-time employee of more than 20 years. He requested anonymity.
“Casino Rama has always been a great place to work,” said the employee. “Until Gateway came along.”
In fact, the employee said he is about to sell his house and move away from Orillia because of the way working conditions have deteriorated.
“The fact that I feel I have to move away and give up my job … I think that speaks volumes,” said the employee.
He claimed Gateway isn’t “even trying to compete. It’s like they don’t care. They’ve removed table games and slots. There are bathrooms that are out of order for weeks, they’ve eroded the customer loyalty program that has really pissed off the patrons, they’ve offered buyouts to long-time employees … it’s ridiculous.”
He said the proliferation of new casinos, especially in the GTA, put the casino in peril.
Dalton concurred, saying the province’s “modernization” initiative has created “a fiercely competitive” landscape.
“While other casinos work tirelessly to market their brand and win customers, Gateway has cut services in virtually all aspects of the business and alienated their previously loyal customers,” said Dalton.
According to Dalton, Casino Rama previously employed more than 1,700 union members. After this wave of layoffs, that number will fall to less than 1,200.
Dalton said the company will be informing those affected by the layoffs today and will begin “the bumping process” Saturday at 8 a.m. The process will continue throughout the weekend.
It’s expected “the final exit date” for the most junior employees will be July 29.
Casino Rama is jointly owned by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, with operation contracted to Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited.
Casino Rama opened July 21, 1996 and has expanded over the years to include an entertainment centre and hotel on its expansive property just off Rama Road.