Numbers indicate big payoff for Falls, Ont. casinos - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s $1 billion gamble on building a second casino in Niagara Falls is paying off.

According to year-end financial statistics released by the OLGC, the provincial entity that oversees lottery and gaming operations in Ontario, the number of people going to either Casino Niagara or the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort are justifying the money invested in the two projects.

During the 2004-2005 fiscal year, which concluded this past March 31, the two casinos brought in $628.52 million in gross gaming revenues, or 21.6 percent more than the $516.61 million that Casino Niagara brought in, by itself, during the 2003-2004 OLGC fiscal year.

Attendance during the last quarter was up by more than 110 percent.

The two Niagara Falls casinos generate the largest numbers of any of the gaming venues operated by the OLGC.

The numbers, officials say, create a stronger foundation for the region's revived tourism and hospitality industry.

"Show me any business where its revenues are up that much and the number of customers it has is up even more and I'd say they had a good year," said Larry Lewin, Falls Management Co. president.

Falls Management, a U.S. and Canadian partnership, operates both the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara for the OLGC.

Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort didn't open its doors until June 10, 2004, meaning for 71 days of the 2004-2005 fiscal year, it did not generate any gross gaming revenues.

"The trend is positive," said Teresa Roncon, OLGC spokeswoman.

The numbers are even more impressive when factors from gaming venues in the immediate Western New York region are considered. The Seneca Nation of Indians operates casinos in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Salamanca while slot machine/racinos operate in Batavia and in Hamburg.

Slots at Fort Erie Racetrack, which also fall under the OLGC's domain, attracted 1.19 million patrons during the 2004-2005 season while generating $99.78 million in gross gaming revenues.

Statistics bear out that the two casinos in Niagara Falls, Ont. are proving to be strong enough magnets to attract more visitors to the city and overall Niagara region.

In the fourth quarter alone, gross gaming revenue was up 16.6 percent, going from $120.5 million during the 2003-2004 fiscal year to $140.56 million this year.

In terms of patrons, the number of visitors to the two casinos rose 64.7 percent between the 2003-2004 OLGC fiscal year and this past year. In hard numbers, visitors to the two casinos went from 6.38 million during 2003-2004 to 10.51 million in 2004-2005.

The daily average rose 110.3 percent, going from 15,478 per day in 2003-2004 to 32,558 this past OLGC fiscal year.

"They've captured a large share of the market," Roncon said.

Officials believe the numbers will continue to spike upwards as the development of the complete Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort complex continues.

"In general, the two casinos are having the desired effect on our community," said Victor Ferraiuolo, Niagara Falls Tourism interim president. "It gives entertainment value, helped with hotel occupancy and helped us bring people in during the shoulder (January and February) season."

Springtime hotel occupancy in Niagara Falls is up about 2 percent from last year, and that's with about 500 more rooms added to the market including 368 rooms at the Fallsview casino.

Ferraiuolo said early indications are hotel occupancy during this summer's peak tourism months will approach 95 percent, up slightly from last year.

"It is absolutely adding to the overall atmosphere here," Ferraiuolo said.

Falls Management Corp. is working on a plan to bring more stores to the Fallsview Casino's retail corridor and more amenities and attractions to bring more than just those interested in gaming. At the same time, there are an equal number of upgrades either planned or just opened at Casino Niagara.

"Having the amenities come on line is important," Roncon said.

Lewin said by the end of July, the Fallsview's Galleria retail complex will have 32 stores open to go along with eight restaurants inside the building.

All 40 retail slots will likely be leased by the end of the year, he added. The entire Galleria area has about 100,000-square-feet of retail space.

"We're taking this one step at a time, but each step is making us a little bit better," Lewin said.

Other news from around the same time

WEB POKER CHIPS ARE DOWN - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Poker firm PartyGaming has been valued at well over £4.6bn in the biggest flotation in London since....

Giant Macau casino wins convention boost from China: report - Sunday 12th of June 2005

China has snubbed Hong Kong and other established Chinese expo venues to stage one of its most prest....

Coral Eurobet heads league - Sunday 12th of June 2005

BRITAIN’S appetite for a flutter has transformed Coral Eurobet into the country’s biggest privat....

Innocent fun or high-risk thrill? - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The big-hitting gamblers in the City of London might be licking their lips at the most intriguing sh....

New bets on Thai casinos - Sunday 12th of June 2005

THE prospects for Australia's gaming tycoons of new opportunities in Thailand have improved, with th....

Florida to appeal judge’s ruling allowing slots on July 1 - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Lawyers representing the state of Florida decided Friday to appeal a judge's ruling that allows slot....

Coast casinos join trend using foreign workers to fill job gaps - Sunday 12th of June 2005

It's not uncommon to hear Caribbean accents in hotel halls because casino resorts employ hundreds of....

Gambling Industry Explodes In Russia - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The new Casino Angara on Moscow's neon-flooded Novy Arbat street is the latest bet that this country....

Casino chips with chips offer security, tracking - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Big Brother is coming to a casino near you.It is a miniature high-tech spy - a chip within a chip. T....

Gamblers flock to Cambodia after Bangkok crackdown - Sunday 12th of June 2005

A recent crackdown on gambling dens in  Bangkok's district of Tao Poon has sent Thai gamblers f....