Oh, how times have changed! A new Ontario casino site expansion planned for London is being welcomed with open arms by the community. It’s a far cry from the reaction incurred twenty years ago when a mere 300-machine slots lounge proposal appeared on the docket.
The new Ontario casino site is being built as an expansion to the Western Fair District. Not only is it being received with little more than a mild stir of uncertainty, the plans call for a full-blown casino experience, with a hotel and restaurants, popular table games, and many more slots added to the fair’s modest gaming floor.
The expansion project coincides with the integration of Gateway Entertainment and Casinos as the new operator of Ontario’s North and Southwestern gaming bundles. As part of its ‘Modernization‘ plan, OLG selected Gateway as the best private operator to take over day to day operations of those properties, and the first thing on Gateway’s to-do list is an expansion of the London raceway.
Welcoming the New Ontario Casino Site
So why is it that locals, who were so staunchly opposed to the idea of a slots parlor at Western Fair in 1997, are welcoming the proposal for a new Ontario casino site two decades later? The answer appears to lie within Gateway’s calculated design plans.
The project does include converting the existing slots parlor – opened in 1999 with just 300 machines, and since increased to 750 – into a full-blown casino. However, it won’t feature all the glitz and glam associated with Vegas-style casinos – the same glitz and glam found along Ontario’s Niagara Fallsview and Windsor casinos along the southern border.
Gateway intends to mimic the subdued ambiance of the existing charitable gaming facilities already located throughout Ontario. The difference being that Western Fair’s games will be genuine class iii slot machines and table games, not the class ii TapTix machines the charitable variety are permitted to install.
As Gateway spokesperson Carrie Kormos explained, this won’t be a “destination” casino, but rather an amplified attraction that will create hundreds of employment opportunities within the community.
“We rely on the numbers and what makes sense,” said Kormos. “It’s important to have the right mix of amenities and the scale appropriate to the community.”
Hotel Only Area Of Contention
The London community is acquiesce to the plans for the new Ontario casino site. The only area of contention is pointed towards the new hotel Gateway wants to build to boost tourism to the Western Fair District.
Some community members argue that another hotel is unnecessary, and would only serve to saturate the market. There are already several hotels in the downtown area, some of which are clearly visible from the London raceway. But all in all, support for the casino expansion is high.
Gateway’s plan is to invest approximately $200 million in the southwestern bundle properties. The Ontario casino site expansion is first on that list. The company estimates the project will increase the casino’s current number of employees from 350 to 1,000. While that sounds like a large number, it hardly compares to the 4,000 staff members employed by Niagara Fallsview, or the 3,000 working at Caesars’ Windsor property.
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