The big boys got a chance to play with the big toys at the official ground breaking for the new Gateway Cascades Casino on Richmond Street in Chatham at the site of the former Wheels Inn, the first Gateway “new build” casino project in Ontario.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope joined Gateway CEO Tony Santo to break ground at the site in a backhoe after a ceremonial shovel exchange, signaling the start of construction on the $36 million facility, expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.
The casino property will include 333 slots, 12 gaming tables and Gateway’s signature restaurant brands, Match Eatery and Public House, and The Buffet.
The investment is expected to create 200 new jobs in addition to the 100 jobs being transferred from the current Dresden Slots facility, plus millions in economic spinoffs in the community.
“Today we break ground and start the construction of what we know will be a great state-of-the-art entertainment attraction of your community and an important contributor to the local economy,” Santo said. “The mayor and city staff were very co-operative and made it easy to do business here.”
Gateway just recently opened a Match Eatery and Public House in Point Edward, which Santo said offers the welcoming and social traditions of a neighbourhood pub as well as the high energy and excitement of a sports bar. The Buffet will have an emphasis on value and an ever-changing menu highlighting food from around the world.
With a separate entrance for the restaurants, Santo said the facility will be family friendly, allowing people to come and go without setting foot in the casino.
“All of our new restaurants, especially with a new build, we design them in such a way that families can come in without going into the casino. There is one entrance to the casino that is posted with security personnel to check for minors, and on the other side, is where the food and beverage facilities are,” Santo noted. “They are designed in that way so that families can come in, eat, drink and have a good time. We consider this a local casino, it’s here for the local community, but anyone is welcome.”
“We want to entice people from the other areas – the Londons and the Windsors – because it’s a new facility. This is one hour away whether you are from Sarnia or Windsor or London. It’s not only to come to the gaming part, it’s to see what the attractions are and the tourism opportunities that exist for this community,” Hope said. “Where else can you go with lakes on both sides? It’s more than about gaming. It’s about adding something that would support other features and the industries to grow.”
Hope added that when we lost the Wheels Inn, we lost a lot of the American tourism, and a number of spinoff benefits.
“We believe the casino facility will not only attract Americans, but also attract others to come to our community, to conferences and other things we have to offer in Chatham-Kent that is of a tourism nature,” Hope stated. “The important thing for us, however, is it provides employment and we are hoping revenue sources will go up for the municipality and allow us to do more things.”
Addressing the public concern with gambling addictions, Hope said Ontario Lottery and Gaming has programs that will help support people with problems, and Gateway supports those initiatives as well.
“It is part of the Gateway and OLG corporate strategy and will be a part of ours. I don’t want people to fall victim; I want people to have fun and enjoy the new facility and the scenery,” Hope said. “There is an overall strategy for this specific area to help it flourish, to create more jobs, create more of a venue so it’s not just about gambling, it’s about a whole opportunity of venues that will be available.”
Hope referenced his plans for the eighty acres across the street on Richmond that are vacant, where he has discussed building a twin-pad arena, as well as a bus and train station.
“We are the heartland of the agricultural area, we are the heartland of the Gateway builds in Ontario and we have a lot to offer people,” he added. “This is only the building block of many other things we can offer in this area.”