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Cancellation of shuttle fuels anger for Casino Rama employees

Union official says decision 'has a negative impact' on some employees, while Gateway official says 'program was no longer viable and cost efficient'
Casino Rama Dealers
Since Casino Rama's reopening following the pandemic, the employee shuttle service is no longer viable, says a company spokesperson of its cancellation.

A decision by Gateway Casinos to scuttle an employee shuttle service has some Casino Rama workers worried about their ability to get to and from work at the facility in Rama First Nation.

Jack Winer is one of those employees. He is so frustrated with the situation, he penned a letter to Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke imploring the city to step in and offer a replacement service.

“We are not naïve, and know the casino will not reverse its decision to remove (this) service. However, this service affects the people of Orillia — mainly your voters,” wrote Winer, who says he is one of “close to 100 people” whose jobs are impacted by the shuttle’s sudden shutdown.

“Since Orillia Transit already goes beyond its city limits to Severn to the Orillia Square mall … why can we not have an express service for both employees and (residents)?” Winer asked, suggesting many might take advantage of “a trip to the casino.”

He said employees would not expect a discounted service.

“I am sure many of the staff would gladly pay upwards of $20 per day (return) for such service, and I am quite sure your constituents would love the opportunity to get out there and have some fun, which also generates monies for both municipal and provincial governing bodies,” Winer said.

He said a “$30 one-way cab ride” is not a viable option and reminded Clarke that when the casino opened, there was a free shuttle service that was used by both employees and patrons.

Clarke, in his response to Winer, said it “is unfortunate Casino Rama made the decision to discontinue the employee shuttle service.”

The mayor noted Orillia taxpayers provide about $1.5 million in annual funding to the city’s transit service, which is augmented by transit fares and gas tax grants.

“Council has not provided direction to provide the city’s taxpayer-funded transit services outside of the city’s boundaries into Ramara Township,” he added.

He suggested Winer and other employees reach out to the County of Simcoe, which now provides transit service with the county.

“The primary function of the LINX transit system is to provide a transit connection between community transit services within the county,” he explained.

However, he noted the city reached out to the county to see if a service between Orillia and Rama was on the radar. The county responded saying it does not have plans to do so.

Rob Mitchell, the director of communications and public affairs for Gateway, which operates Casino Rama and other casinos, said the decision to terminate the shuttle was made due to declining ridership.

“Since reopening (after the pandemic) the ridership has drastically declined, making the program no longer viable and cost efficient,” he told OrilliaMatters.

He said the company “tried to save the program by introducing a nominal fee but it was not enough to cover the cost based on the low ridership.”

He said “less than 60 people were using the service, (and) therefore the business decision was made to eliminate the program.”

He suggested “as an alternative, ride sharing is available and the facility offers free parking to all employees on site.”

Steve Batchelor, national representative for Unifor Local 1090, which represents most of the employees at Casino Rama, said the decision to cancel the shuttle “has a negative impact” on some of the union’s members.

“The number of affected members was approximately 34 who would have to arrange for alternative transportation,” Batchelor said, noting the majority of users of this service were members of management.

“Having said that … the employer had no contractual obligation to our members on this and the collective agreement did not contain any provisions surrounding the shuttle service provided,” he explained.

He said the employer “simply put the union on notice that due to increased costs, they were discontinuing this service.”


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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