Industry Reports

Canada’s Land-Based Casino Landscape

Canada has been known for its liberal approach towards gambling, including casinos, horseracing tracks, and sports betting parlors. The world’s casino business sees Canada’s casino market as a goldmine. The potential for establishing a gambling facility in Canada attracted the attention of key international casino brands to set their sights on Canada’s casino market.

If there are multiple factors that determine the profitability of one market or another, taxation and regulatory regime matter the most. It is not a secret that Canada’s gambling industry has struggled for years to remain afloat and there are a number of reasons for that, which shall be discussed in the following lines. But this does not change the fact that leading gambling brands are squaring up to crack into Canada’s gambling market.

Casino gaming is among the most appealing forms of gambling to tourists. The country offers a rich choice of over 100 land-based casinos and resorts located in some of the most charming areas across the country. Ontario is the Canadian province to offer the most gambling venues of all the rest. Here it is interesting to note that similar to the U.S., Canada has also its tribal-owned casinos. A number of Canada’s gambling facilities are run by First Nations tribes.

A Brief Look at the History of Canada’s Gambling Industry

Canada’s gambling history is rooted as far back as 1969, when the country’s Criminal Code underwent certain changes. Under the new rules, Canadian provinces and territories were allowed to offer lotteries as means to raise funds for worthwhile charitable causes. At present, Canadian lotteries generate the highest tax revenues in comparison to all other regulated gambling sectors. From that point, gambling started to grow rapidly, entertaining people across the entire country. In order to keep pace with the industry’s fast-paced progress, Canada has also regulated horse racing, charitable gaming, casino-style gambling, video lottery terminals.

Canada’s Gambling Industry in Ruins

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is a Canadian Crown corporation, responsible for the gambling industry in Ontario. It controls a number of lotteries, slot machines and commercial casinos within the province. As mentioned above, Ontario is the province to offer the most gambling venues among all. Hence, its profitability is of vital importance for the industry’s future development. But over the past 5 years, Canada’s gambling industry has witnessed considerable slowdown. The lack of players appeared to be the biggest scourge, which left the casino industry on life support.

The problem stems from the fact that OLG’s gambling properties are mostly outdated and these cannot keep pace with the cutting-edge technologies. Apart from that, the rapidly growing U.S. gambling sector (including online gambling and land-based casinos) undermines even more OLG’s presence on the market. Canadian states even reported thousands of dollars “leakage” to unlicensed iGaming operators. Coming as no surprise, Canadian players seem to prefer the U.S. modernized gambling environment over Canada’s shabby gambling venues, which lack the needed luster to attract the attention of casino fans.

Plans to Revive Canada’s Gambling Industry

Being the government’s main source of non-tax revenues, OLG needed to find a way to get out of the impasse. The continuous financial meltdown triggered some important decisions. OLG masterminded a plan to deploy the province’s full potential of the gambling industry and help it spring to life once again. The Gaming Corporation announced that it is to trust some of its gambling properties in Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in the hands of a private operator. The properties in question included Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack, Ajax Downs and the Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry, all referred to as “GTA Bundle”.

As a result, OLG opened an official bidding process. To attract the interest of more operators, OLG promised them a mouth-watering financial profit of at least $72-million per year, along with up to 70% of the gambling revenue. The only requirement to the bidders was to have a strategy aiming at increasing the revenues, generated by the gaming industry. This attracted the attention of many international casino brands, which entered the bidding war determined to expand their business footprint on Canadian soil.

In August, OLG announced the names of the winners, who were supposed to ink a 22-year-long takeover deal. The fortunate “Bundle”-awarded operators were Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and Brookfield Business Partners L.P. The two international brands were to acquire OLG Slots at Woodbine Racetrack, OLG Slots at Ajax Downs and Great Blue Heron Casino. The deal is expected to be finalized in the beginning of 2018 as there are still certain legal requirements, which the parties should meet.

So far, this may sound like the perfect plan – foreign companies investing tons of money in lustrous gambling resorts in Canada and the state’s coffers to be filled overflowing. But every fairy tale has a dark side. The privatization of Greater Toronto’s gambling sector woke up a spirit of discontent. The members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) voiced concerns regarding the fact that foreign-based companies are to take over Greater Toronto’s gambling market. The members of the party pointed out that Canada is to see its agile money flying away.

Upgrade Projects and Recent Casino Openings

The casino industry in Canada went through a thorny road from surviving to thriving. Currently, it is trying to bring back its former glory and several multi-million casino projects signal that it may have taken the right turn. The evolution of every industry is highly dependent on the consumers’ demand and the land-based casino industry makes no exception to the rule. In a such oversaturated market, casinos have to be more innovative than that of its competitors to entice players.

Parq Vancouver urban casino resort is the newest and biggest entertainment complex to open doors in Vancouver, Canada. On 29th September this year, the casino resort celebrated its grand opening party with many VIP guests and thousands of visitors. Parq Vancouver was met with great interest as it is expected to boost the country’s tourism and revive its gambling industry.

The casino’s grand opening started with a celebratory “first roll of the dice” on the casino floor. The late-evening cutting-ribbon ceremony took place at B.C. Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver. Hundreds of people flocked to the stadium, expecting to become witnesses of the auspicious event. The stadium was bursting at the seams because the casino’s grand opening was lined with the Coldplay concert and the American country singer Miranda Lambert’s performance. The crowds of people kept on overflowing, so that Vancouver Fire Department blocked the main entrance of its main Beatty Street.

Parq Vancouver is worth a stunning $700 million. The whole complex spreads over a 700,000-square-foot site at a very strategic location, and more precisely on the west side of BC Place Stadium. It offers easy access and breathtaking views to its guests.

The operator saw the Vegas-style casinos through a prism, bringing the Vegas flair to a wholly new business level. Parq Vancouver’s gaming floor occupies 72,000 square feet of space. Casino fans can find a whole arsenal of gambling activities, including 600 slot machines, 75 gaming tables, a poker room and a salon for high-roller action. As for the non-gambling options, the complex offers a bountiful assortment of various entertainments including classy restaurants for the connoisseurs of good food, meeting facilities, and 2 world-class hotels. The resort’s crown jewel is a 30,000-square-foot outdoor space, which is unique for Vancouver.

Since time immemorial, casinos have been associated with glamorous tourist resorts as there is a close correlation between the gambling industry and the tourism sector. In the recent years, many countries regulated their casino markets and authorized land-based casinos driven by the idea to expand their tourism markets and bring in an additional source of wealth into the economy. Hence, many industry analysts consider that the opening of Parq Vancouver is to bring significant economic benefits to the country.

Another multi-million casino upgrade plan was unveiled earlier this year. The initially meant to be temporary gambling facility Casino Niagara is currently undergoing a renovation of its second floor, which is to cost C$7 million. According to the revamp plan, C$3.5 million is to be invested in redesigning the second floor of the 20-year old casino. The other portion of the money will be used for buying innovative gambling technologies such as slot machines, Xbox’s, and skill-based games. The casino officials shared that the sports fans will be also pleased to visit Casino Niagara, as the casino is to offer a sportsbook complying with OLG’s standards. The project is scheduled to be completed sometime in November this year.

International Operators Eye Foray into Canada’s Gambling Market

Casino developer and operator Hard Rock International seeks to broaden its reach beyond its home Florida. In mid-May this year, Hard Rock expressed interest in building a casino complex at the Rideau Carleton Raceway in Canada’s capital city Ottawa after winning a bidding process. The expanded Rideau Carleton will be renamed into Hard Rock Casino Ottawa. Reportedly, the operator is to invest up to $320 million to transform the existing property into a modern entertainment complex.

According to the project, the new complex is to offer a luxurious hotel, a music venue and a modern casino complex. Under the terms and conditions of the land-use deal, Hard Rock is allowed to install 21 tables games, including poker and roulette. As it can be recalled, in 2013 the city council announced that it is to support the establishment of a casino providing that it is built at the racetrack and the number of table games is capped to a maximum of 21.

It is barely news to anyone interested in the gambling industry that Caesars Entertainment emerged from a two-and-a-half-year-long bankruptcy last month. After consolidating its business, the company announced that it aims to enter a new market with a great potential to remedy the wounds from the bankruptcy. Earlier this year, the major casino operator revealed its plans to crack into Canada’s gambling market. In an interview with Caesars’ CEO Mark Frissora, the casino official highlighted the company’s goals for the future. Among all other things, it emerged on the surface that the company is to keep track on several markets, including Canada.

Caesars Entertainment entered a bidding war against Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management and Malaysian Genting Group. The three companies were striving to have their fingers in the pie called GTA “Bundle”. But OLG selected Great Canadian Gaming and Brookfield as the preferred operators to take the control over its gambling properties. Caesars, on the other hand, did not announce that it is to fold up its plans to enter Canada’s gambling market, but it is patiently waiting for its chance to make a splash on the Canadian market.

Summing Up the Pieces of the Puzzle

A number of times Casino Reports’ team has referred to the gambling industry as a lucrative and profitable one. According to various statistics, the global gambling industry is growing year on year. With the online gambling revolution, millions have seized on the opportunity to play in an online casino as this is more convenient and time-saving method. Consequently, land-based casino revenues started to plummet in the recent years. That is one of the main reasons why Canada’s land-based gambling market is facing a myriad of challenges to keep its marketplace presence. As every business, the gambling industry has its ups and downs, but it always manages to find its feet and climb out the hole.

The oversaturation of the casino market has resulted in players looking for locations that offer much more than the conventional gambling options to gamble away their money. Hence, non-gaming entertainments have become an important segment in encouraging players to leave the comfort of their homes and visit land-based casinos. The detailed overview of Canada’s gambling landscape showed that there are new horizons for the country’s gambling industry. The restructuring and updating of casinos may be viewed as a way to revive the glory of land-based casinos.