Gateway Casinos and Entertainment spent $32 million to develop the new Grand Villa Casino in downtown Edmonton and officially opened the casino to the public on September 7. The facility is attached to the eastern side of the Rogers Place arena and has a total of 600 slot machines and 28 table games. The casino has also made provision for a VIP area on the gaming floor.

The facility has an upscale fish and steak restaurant, a central bar, and four fast food restaurants that serve up burgers, pizza and coffee; a pub and eatery. Downtown Edmonton has always been a busy spot and the casino’s investors took a calculated risk in spending a significant amount of money to lease the site from the Ice District as they believe the location of the casino will enable it to attract a regular flow of customers.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment previously operated the Bacarat Casino which was located along 104 Avenue. By securing the new site, Gateway was able to make the shift to the new location and in the process shutdown the old casino which is now decommissioned. In a statement, Tony Santo, CEO of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, said “It’s really neat to see people’s expressions when they walk in. One of the good things about where we’re located is they’re always going to be having events here.”

Santo stated that he wasn’t aware of what would happen to the old Bacarat Casino but believes there will be a number of different parties interested in tearing down the old building at the earliest. He stated that all Bacarat employees who wanted to move to the Grand Villa casino were transferred and the new facility had also created an additional 200 employment opportunities for Edmonton.

Scott McKeen, the Downtown Coun. stated that while he wasn’t in the habit of visiting casinos, he believed that the new facility is a good addition as it brought good things to the live music and restaurant scene in Downtown Edmonton. There were concerns that the Grand Villa casino might increase problem gambling in the region but McKeen stated revenues from the casino could be used to further support mental health and addiction recovery organizations.

McKeen stated that the provincial government, who generally turns out to be the biggest beneficiary of gaming revenues, should consider using funds for centers for housing and treating gambling addicts.

The Grand Villa casino would continue to support problem gambling initiatives as Santo stated that employees at the casino were trained on Game Sense, which is a responsible gaming initiative in the province that enables problem gamblers to voluntarily excuse themselves from the casino, which will then be enforced by casino staff.