Canada’s got game

Not quite the glitz of Las Vegas and unable to match the opulence of Monte Carlo, Canada is nonetheless quietly establishing a reputation for itself as a gamblers’ paradise.

With a number of first-class casinos, top racetracks and a string of high end hotels with gaming facilities, Canadians can now roll the dice in their own backyard and come up winners.

Since the Ontario Government of Ontario enacted the Ontario Casino Corporation Act in late 1993, which named Windsor, Ontario, as the host community for the province’s first pilot commercial casino, the province has been at the forefront of gambling operations in Canada.

Now some 11 cities across the province — from Windsor and Sault St. Marie to Kenora and Gananoque — as well as the tourist trap of Niagara Falls, all boast casinos. Slot machines have also been introduced at the province’s racetracks quickly bringing horseracing into the 21st century.

No longer just “The Honeymoon Capital,” Niagara Falls boasts two first-class gambling facilities with Fort Erie racetrack also within driving distance, giving ample opportunities to visitors and residents looking to flirt with Lady Luck.

Overlooking the falls in Niagara, Fallsview Casino Resort is one of the largest gaming resort facilities in Canada. Opened at a cost of $1 billion in mid-2004, Fallsview offers a world-class casino with more than 3,000 slot machines, 130 gaming tables and a poker room. The resort also features a 374-room luxury hotel, full service spa and fitness centre, the 1,500-seat Avalon Theatre and some 30,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

Close by is Casino Niagara, with more than 1,700 slot and video poker machines, 60 gaming tables, 12 poker tables and three restaurants and bars.

Further west, Windsor blasted itself back into the gaming spotlight last year with the opening of the newly-renovated Caesars Windsor.

On the Canadian side of the Detroit River the recently completed $439-million expansion and renovation has dramatically increased the size of the Windsor casino-resort, which now covers more than four hectares (10 acres).

The complex features two four-diamond hotel towers with incredible riverfront views, several restaurants, 100,000 square feet of convention space, a 5,000-seat theatre showcasing headline entertainment and non-stop gaming action spread over two floors.

“This is a tremendous property. It is not just the largest casino-resort in the Detroit-Windsor market, it is the largest casino-resort in Canada,” Kevin Laforet, president and chief executive of Caesars Windsor, said recently. “Combining this great facility with the world-renowned Caesars name makes Caesars Windsor a premier destination for world-class entertainment and getaways.”

If thundering hooves is more to your liking then look no further than the Woodbine Entertainment Group, the largest horseracing operator in Canada.

WEG operates two racetracks in Ontario. Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto hosts both standardbred and thoroughbred racing and is the only track in North America that can offer both types of racing on the same day. Meanwhile, Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville hosts summer standardbred racing from May through to October. Both of these racetracks also house slot machines managed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission.

The company also operates extensive off-track wagering operations through its “Champions” teletheatre network and its own facilities which include WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, Turf Lounge in downtown Toronto and Greenwood in the Beach area of Toronto. It also broadcasts its standardbred and thoroughbred televised racing from Woodbine and Mohawk to wagering operations owned by other racetracks in Canada and the United States.

Operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week since July 1996, Casino Rama is Ontario’s only First Nation’s commercial casino. The Casino offers a complete entertainment experience with more than 2,500 slot machines, over 110 gaming tables, 10 unique restaurants, a world-class 5,000 seat Entertainment Centre and a 300-room all-suite, full-service hotel, featuring spa and health club facilities. Casino Rama is operated by Penn National Gaming Inc.

In western Canada, Saskatchewan’s top tourism draw is Casino Regina which offers some 800 slot machines and 35 table games, including Blackjack, Baccarat, Craps, Roulette, Caribbean Stud Poker, Red Dog and Three Card Poker.

The casino is operated by the Saskatchewan gaming Corp which also operates Casino Moose Jaw.

The casino, which is located in the historic Union Train Station, features three annual poker tournaments boasting some of the biggest prize pools in Canada, attracting players throughout North America.

When you are looking for more than just trying your luck, visitors can also take in top-notch entertainment. Its Vegas-style Show Lounge is home to world-class music, comedy and magic, and the Last Spike Restaurant provides a relaxed dining atmosphere.

“The Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation continues to play a vital role in the local and
provincial economy,” Bill Hutchinson, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan
Gaming Corporation, said recently. “Its success is great news for our province, particularly as all SGC’s profits benefit the people of Saskatchewan.”

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