News

$7M upgrade at ‘here to stay’ Casino Niagara

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

A $7-million upgrade to Casino Niagara expected to be completed by mid November is another example the facility — which originally was meant to be temporary — is “here to stay,” says Niagara Casinos president Richard Taylor.

“The property was starting to get a little bit tired, and it was in need of a rebuild, and that was sort of the impetus behind all of this, was the need to recreate what this property is, and to give the customers more of what it is that they’re looking for,” said Taylor.

“But it’s not just this current project. With our partnership with (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation), there’s been a $20-million investment in this property over the last couple of years, on the level upstairs, and a number of the other pieces of infrastructure here. So we’re approaching a $30-million investment at this property within the last couple of years. It’s a significant part of our business, and it’s here to stay.”

Casino Niagara opened on Falls Avenue in 1996 and was initially intended to be a temporary casino until a permanent facility was built.

Fallsview Casino opened in 2004 on Fallsview Boulevard in what is now considered the heart of the city’s tourism district.

“We don’t consider (Casino Niagara) to be our secondary casino. This is as premier as Fallsview, and the investment that’s taking place here is reflective of that, so it’s an extremely important part of the product offering that we have,” said Taylor.

“We have 4,200 employees that work between the two properties, and we have a lot of staff that go back and forth. Quite honestly, we don’t view this as a separate property, we just view this as a part of our business that happens to be separated by a kilometre of space.”

Taylor took media on a tour of the 25,310-square-foot, second-floor construction project at Casino Niagara that is intended to improve the gaming and entertainment experience for all visitors.

The project is transforming the second level into a destination for sports fans and entertainment seekers.

It includes $3.5 million on infrastructure and redesign for a fresh entertainment experience (new carpeting, floors, walls, several HDTVs, the largest being 123 inches, bar and restaurant), and an additional $3.5 million on technology to offer guests the next generation of gaming.

Construction began in June.

Taylor said a 275-seat dining area will have a “very contemporary” sports theme, will focus on local food and beverages, feature a stage for live entertainment, and will be fully integrated with the new gaming product on the floor.

“We have a sports book (as per OLG standards), we have a poker room — we’ve moved a significant portion of our poker operation here because we think that product offering is going to complement the space that we’re trying to create here, and one is going to feed off of the other.”

He said the state-of-the-art poker room is going to include more than 20 tables.

“We’re going to have a lot of different product — some traditional slot machines, but we’re also going to have some non-traditional slot machines, the skilled-based gaming, access to the Internet in the restaurant, there’s going to be Xbox’s and things like that for people to enjoy.”

Casino Niagara has more than 1,300 slots, and 40 table games.

Fallsview Casino has more than 3,000 slots, and more than 130 table games.

The two casinos welcome more than nine-million visitors annually.

With more than 4,000 employees, Niagara Casinos is the No. 1 employer in the region.

“We view our employees to be the key element of our success,” said Taylor.

“It’s what we deliver our experience through. We strive for excellence on our product offering and on our property — but it’s really the people that make the difference for us.”

He said Niagara Casinos is “excited” to be part of the growing tourism industry, which in recent years has added new attractions, a convention centre and, by 2019, a new 5,000-seat entertainment centre.

“Business has been extremely good, and I think the product we offer is what the customer is looking for. But it’s not just us, we’re just part of the success. It’s the whole, entire business community here that really needs to take credit for all the recent successes that have taken place. We’re just proud to be part of it, along with the community, and our business partners down here.”

rspiteri@postmedia.com