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Casino redesign taps ‘beautiful’ location

Cathy Dobson Initial reports of a $26-million reinvestment in the Point Edward casino suggested a new family-friendly restaurant would be the main upgrade. That would be some restaurant.
Gateway Casinos Point Edward GM Karen Richards says rebranding and redevelopment will capitalize on the building’s spectacular waterfront location. Here, she stands in the outdoor dining area overlooking the river. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Initial reports of a $26-million reinvestment in the Point Edward casino suggested a new family-friendly restaurant would be the main upgrade. That would be some restaurant.

A tour of the riverside building with general manager Karen Richards reveals virtually every square foot of public space in the casino is going to be renovated over the next year.

The dramatic changes include interior walls knocked out to allow natural light to flood the gaming floor. There’s going to be 25 gaming tables – an increase from 21 – and 50 more slot machines for a total of 500.

“Customers will see a marked difference,” said Richards. “There’s going to be a different ambience, a flow to the gaming floor and more dining options.”

The major reinvestment was announced two months after the casino was purchased by Gateway Casinos & Gaming Limited, Canada’s largest gaming company.

Gateway simultaneously bought five other Southwestern Ontario gaming properties in Woodstock, London, Clinton, Dresden and Hanover, from the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG). When the deal was announced in May, Gateway acknowledged all six properties needed serious work.

Point Edward’s casino hasn’t been upgraded since 2009 and Richards said staff are “thrilled” the company chose to reinvest in Point Edward first.

“When Gateway’s CEO Tony Santo toured this casino, he said it was natural to brand us a Starlight property,” Richards said.  Gateway has four brands that they apply to their 26 casinos across the country. Point Edward will be the company’s third Starlight property. The other two are out west.

Starlight branding means it will have a contemporary, urban feel with ample natural light, new flooring and new fixtures. Any hint of the original underwater theme will be gone, according to Richards.

The main entrance is due for big changes when the walls that separate it from the gaming floor come down.

“When you walk in, you’ll see our beautiful waterfront with guest services moved to your left and the new Match Eatery & Public House on the right,” explained Richards.

There’s currently only one restaurant in the casino, strictly accessible by walking through the gaming floor. That makes it off limits to anyone under 19.

But the new Match Eatery will have an outside entrance that minors can use at the casino’s north end. There will also be patio dining with a great view of the river and the Blue Water Bridge.

The existing Getaway Restaurant will be converted into The Buffet dining room.

The additional restaurant and more gaming tables and slots suggest the staff complement of 325 could increase.

Richards wasn’t specific about new hiring, but did put rumours to rest about the possibility of a hotel to accompany the casino.

“I have heard nothing about a hotel,” she said.

The $26 million will also finance an enlarged main bar in the centre of the gaming floor with weekly live entertainment. Of course there will also be upgrades that won’t be visible like mechanical and electrical improvements.

All the tradesmen will be local, Richards said. Construction work begins within the next two months and will be completed in four stages with the casino continuing to operate throughout the yearlong project.

Got an interesting business story?  Contact Cathy at [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

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