Posts Tagged ‘casinos’

This gang can’t shoot straight.

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

They must find these companies under a bush somewhere. We are talking about Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, a Canadian casino management company based in B.C., that is currently being taken over by an American company with deeper pockets. Gateway operates casinos in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. In Ontario, the company manages casinos in central, northern and southwest Ontario, including Casino Rama, Innisfil Casino and one to be opened in Wasaga Beach. As we live in central Ontario, we can report that Innisfil has no craps and is an ongoing disappointment, Rama has fallen on hard times and Wasaga is coming.

The wife and I picked a bad day last week to stop at the Innisfil casino. I do not know if the weather report that said it was the coldest day of the winter so far, was to blame for the technical problems but it might have been reason for missing staff. It started with no staff for the coatroom. There were also some very grouchy slot players who could not get their payoffs because of a computer glitch. The wife was pleased when I said we could come back when people are happier.

And we know better than to eat in their restaurant. We have heard various excuses for the food there but it just seems to be poor quality, cooked without caring.

The company downgraded our favourite restaurant at Rama. They turned it into a burger joint. One thing I know about successful casinos after years of trips to Las Vegas is that if you stay away from the buffets, gamblers can expect good food. At Rama, the only thing this management company did with the other restaurants seemed to be to raise the prices. And, while I might be wrong, they seem to have simply cut off the comps while taking three months to convert to their own “Club Rewards” program.

I expect leaner times when they get the program started again.

But I think the system of comping gamblers on table games should borrow elements of the system in early Las Vegas where the pit bosses controlled the comps. These are the people who can see the action best. They know the gamblers best. And the people who stimulate the gambling and make it fun are not the whales of years gone by.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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The road downhill for Ontario casinos.

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Being a kid when Bugsy Siegel and organized crime put Las Vegas on the world map, I have always been cautious of people who offer the opportunity to risk your gambling money. I always assume that they are not doing it to be benevolent. You have to be careful of your money. As much as I like to gamble, I am always wary.

That was why when I started going to Las Vegas as a young man, I also started reading books on gambling. I learned that there was much more to it than just keeping an eye on the dealer. When I realized that I was going to lose more often than win, I looked for strategies to minimize losses and improve winnings. The wife and I have our rules when gambling and we stick to them.

For the past 25 years, we have been welcomed at Casino Rama near Orillia. We know the dealers, craps crews, supervisors and staff that used to make it such a friendly and fun place. We would often go for dinner and a show, compliments of the casino. That was until Gateway Casinos and Entertainment took over the management of the largest casino in the province. And to add insult to injury, they also took over the nearby Innisfil Slots operations, as it expanded to add table games.

That was also when Woodbine Entertainment put in its temporary casino at the racetrack. The three casinos have gone downhill together. Woodbine hardly cares. Its temporary casino is ugly, unfriendly, cold and uninterested in its customers. In the largest market in Canada, it can always get more. It doesn’t even think it needs to go the expense of offering proper craps tables—and that shows how little these companies know about casinos. It is the craps tables that are the heart of a casino. They are an important draw. The casinos I have known that excluded craps tables did so for racist reasons.

But what is the main draw at any major casino in Las Vegas and around the world is good food. Woodbine is lucky, it has had good food for many years.

But I would advise people going to Rama or Innisfil casinos these days that they eat first. When the Innisfil Casino offers you a free lunch, that is frankly what I think it is worth. Rama’s popular Cedar restaurant has been turned into a low-class hamburger joint with high prices. Better you get something tasty from Tim Horton’s.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario’s going to Hell in a handbasket.

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

There are various opinions about ways of getting to Hell but my American mother liked the phrase about a handbasket and I first heard it from her when I was quite young. It seems appropriate now that we have elected a Ford as premier, that the province is heading for hell and perdition faster than before.

Look at the difference between the much more parsimonious liberal regime than what was elected last June. The liberals used a form of water torture to distribute booze from a grocery store here and then another over there. Dougie is fixing that. The conservatives have already extended the hours of permitted sale and they are even talking about beer in convenience stores.

Just why Dougie has not been as adept in the task of marketing cannabis comes as something of a surprise.

And why is it, all of a sudden, that we have new casinos opening all over the province? Dougie also seems to be behind that. Any voters foolish enough to blow their vote on Ford and his conservatives last year had to be big time gamblers.

Mind you, the wife would like to grab that big schmuck by the throat and find out why there are no craps tables at these new casinos. I am not really embarrassed to tell you that my wife likes to shoot craps.

She might be one of the thriftiest gamblers you have ever seen at a craps table but she is a good shooter and I have seen her hold the dice for close to an hour, making her numbers and making thousands for the heavy hitters at the table. At Rama, where the regular players know her, they will always make room for her at the table.

We have dropped in at two of these new casinos now adding to their table action at Toronto’s Woodbine and at the trotting track in Innisfil and while they were offering some table games, there were no craps tables. The wife advised them that she might come back—when they have craps.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto’s Tacky-Town Casino.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Had a weekend of fun with friends in Toronto last weekend. The entertainment was varied, the food ranged from perfectly grilled steaks to the excellent buffet at Woodbine’s Favourites dining room to pizza and beer and just talking. The entertainment ranged from the circus atmosphere of Circ du Soleil to Woodbine’s last thoroughbred racing card of the year to a look at Woodbine’s new casino.

The Woodbine casino was a shock. The operator, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), based in Burnaby, B.C., does not know Toronto and will long regret this cheap, insulting and foolhardy attempt at satisfying Toronto gamblers.

The one thing that occurred to me when Toronto Council went along with the Woodbine location was that it was the late Ken Thompson’s family that controlled Woodbine Entertainment and I hoped some of the class that man showed in life would pass on to his heirs. It did not.

This casino would be an embarrassment in the worst part of Las Vegas. Admittedly, these are temporary quarters under the old grandstand. They are building the new casino as fast as they can.

I hate multi-storied casinos. Like those in Atlantic City and Montreal, they seem tacky from day one. This temporary one is on three floors. In the basement, there are lots and lots of slots—frankly, a good place for them. Those gross table game machines that replace dealers are very much in evidence on floor two. The live table games—blackjack and all the variables were crowded and showed desperation. It was a mixed crowd ethnically but few looked like they could afford to play at a $25 table. They reminded me of the day-trippers who came to Las Vegas from Los Angeles by bus without hotel reservations.

The equipment on the gaming floor was cheap and the dealers looked exhausted but the surprise was to come. I recognized a floor supervisor formerly at Rama Casino and asked about the high rollers space. It turned out to be the third floor. The sign at the door said ‘No Admittance’ but we just said ‘hello’ to the guy at the door and marched in with the supervisor.

Have you ever seen silent discrimination? If there are a dozen or so tables for games preferred by ethnic Chinese and three for $100 blackjack, who do you think the room is for? And there were no craps tables anywhere. We were told that the operator did not like craps. It seems that craps is considered an American—and mainly black—game. If the wife ever meets the GCGC executive who holds those views she might kick him where it really hurts.

By the way, we only saw five players in the third-floor sanctum. One playing blackjack—badly—and the rest playing dollar slots.

Maybe this new Woodbine Casino only wants bad players who do not understand odds.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Poker playing politicos.

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

It has been a while since playing poker at the local casino. The people who work the tables as a team, at that place, play a rough game. I stick to blackjack and craps at the casino and play poker monthly with a group of friends who have played together for years. The more interesting games when I was younger were the late-night games with politicos at party conferences.

This comes up because someone asked me the other day if I would want to play poker with Donald Trump. Expletive deleted, I said ‘No.’ The simple reason was that I would have no reason to not expect him to cheat. This is a man whose entire business career was a constantly cascading house of cards.

With Mr. Trump, you can always tell when he is lying. He opens his mouth. That is something of a cliché but he exemplifies the branding.

The same person then asked me if I would like to play poker with Justin Trudeau. I thought about that. I finally said ‘yes’ because I would certainly like to add some of the Trudeau wealth to my bank account.

But I would feel guilty. The Canadian prime minister is an easy read. I have been fascinated watching that man turn his public persona on and off. And as that gal from Timmins sings, “That don’t impress me much.”

And it makes Trudeau a ‘patsy’ for Trump. The American is holding up our prime minister to ridicule. He is holding Canada in contempt. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms to ‘Get stuffed.’

That is not a diplomatic term but its use would do him a favour. He has no understanding of diplomatic. “Get stuffed,” the jerk is likely to understand.

To be honest, we would be doing the dummy a favour. As the best friends America has ever had, Canada has the right to use plain American English. We have no need to pussy-foot with Trump. Why would you ever want to?

This game of his with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a deep insult to Canada and, win or lose, Canadians are not going to be forgiving. If Trudeau caves in on even one of Trump’s stupid demands, Trudeau will be out on his ass in next year’s elections.

Canada could be facing a few tough years without NAFTA, but in the long run, we might be better off without it. And no tin-pot dictator is going to hold our country up for ransom.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Casinos and the Pope’s rules.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

It is supposed to be an Italian saying about the Pope and birth control. It is that people who do not play the game should not make the rules for those who play. Having a rule such as that would also certainly save a lot of time tomorrow when Toronto City Council debates casinos. Based on everything we have heard to-date, it will just be the ignorant leading the stupid. People who have never been in a casino in their life will tell you what they believe.

Say what you want about our former provincial gambling tsar but Paul Godfrey knows casinos and likes to gamble. He used to go on weekend junkets to Las Vegas. He has proved that he gambles as a politician and as a businessman. He bought the Post newspapers when all the smart money is going to the Internet. He is gambling on his newspapers being able to transition to the Internet.

And when Paul’s entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigned in protest over his firing, it was a deliberate kick in the teeth for Premier Kathleen Wynne. In this day and age, that is a rare show of solidarity.

But what we will see tomorrow at Toronto City Council will be the furthest thing from solidarity. The only event that could get that council working together would be Mayor Rob Ford’s resignation.

The major problems for any discussion at City Council are the demands that city staff think the politicians should ask of any casino complex. The demands are unreasonable, a very bad business model and a guarantee of the failure of any negotiations. It is as though city staff planned it that way.

In a more perfect world than that on display at Toronto Council, the result tomorrow should be approval of Woodbine Entertainment getting the casino table games the organization has always wanted. That will leave Markham and maybe Mississauga free to fight it out for a full-fledged casino complex down the road.  It would create an entertainment and convention centre for either municipality that would soon be the envy of their poor cousins in dreary old, bluestocking Toronto.

And as for Premier Wynne and her cabinet, they have to get some people at the helm of Ontario Lottery and Gaming who know something about the subject. There is no learning curve allowed.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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What’s with wrong-way Wynne?

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Talking with a long-term political friend the other day, the best advice we could provide was to remind him of the old chestnut: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. That is the advice someone forgot to supply Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Firing Ontario Lottery’s Paul Godfrey yesterday was a foolish move. It could mean that the Liberal Premier’s house of cards is starting to crumble.

Using Godfrey to front for the government’s gambling addiction was a carry-over from the McGuinty regime that was working. (And let’s face it: not many of the McGuinty era schemes were.) Wynne had to keep her government in a denial space with Ontario’s bluestockings. For her to allow herself to be drawn into any of this Toronto casino debate is to allow the naysayers to make the connection.  She has far too many strikes against her already.

And Kathleen Wynne obviously knows absolutely nothing about the casino business. She almost lost her footing on the subject earlier in the year when she told Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that there would be no special deal for Toronto to host a casino. Her response to Ford showed a complete ignorance of both the casino business and the politics involved in the question.

This woman seems to forget that she has only been elected by the people in her electoral district in Toronto—which we seem to recall usually vote Conservative. She was chosen as Premier by a small group of sheep artfully culled from the provincial herd of Liberals by a corrupted selection process. Instead of preparing for the proper selection process based on an Ontario-wide vote, she has been clawing at anyone who questions her right to the Premier’s office.

Wynne’s wooing of New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath to keep her government in power has been nauseating. The Sousa budget that is supposed to be propped up by the New Democrats is a hodge-podge of failed ideas that lack credentials in either Liberal or NDP circles.

Wynne will not win this one by declaring herself tsar of all the gaming in Ontario. Her situation is doubly serious with the entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigning in support of Godfrey. She forgot, he has been in politics far longer and he knows more about politics than her.

Wynne’s days are numbered.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Casino debate? Don’t bet on it.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

If there is an elected city council anywhere that knows the difference between debate and posturing, it has been keeping it secret. Toronto Council will spend a day on May 21 debating whether Toronto will have a downtown casino. You know ahead of time, that it will be a day of posturing, not enlightenment.

It would save all members of council from looking colossally stupid if they just convened, voted and then spent the day helping out at their local food bank or soup kitchen. There is nothing new they can say on the subject of a casino that they have not already said ad nauseam. They have absolutely no new information. The basic problem is that they are short on facts and long on biases.

And, as is the usual custom, they have been misled by city staff. The list of demands, prepared by staff, that they are supposed to impose on a developer are a joke. No honest developer would ever agree to all those conditions. And they certainly cannot promise the city $100 million a year. A casino is a business. It has to be run as a business. If it is not run as a business, most knowledgeable gamblers would stay away from it.

It would certainly help if Toronto councillors made a field trip to Niagara Falls. This is not to gamble but to just look at three casinos. They are the new Fallsview, the old Casino Niagara and the Seneca Casino on the American side of the river. Frankly, after looking at the three casinos, you would not want Ontario Lottery and Gaming to be responsible for a tattoo parlour. What the councillors would learn is that the casino business works well when it is able to be competitive.

On May 21, Torontonians can at least expect that Woodbine Entertainment will finally get the city nod for some table games and be recognized as a full-fledged casino. A downtown casino is not as good a bet. Not to worry though, Markham Council might not act as stupid and that municipality would be a very profitable location for a casino.

With privately run, casinos at Woodbine, Orillia and Markham, healthy competition between them can be encouraged. They might not be the cash cows demanded by greedy politicians but they might just serve as legal outlets for gambling in this part of our country and serve to reduce the cash outflow to Las Vegas.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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You have gotta hand it to Rosie.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

There is a saying that the true measure of a person’s intelligence is how much they agree with you. That makes Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star a very intelligent person. We had frankly given up any hope of any writer at the Toronto Star telling the truth about the current casino controversy in the city. Just read her page two story today (April 16, 2013). It is bang on the target!

Mind you, Rosie is a superb writer. It is obvious in everything she writes that she really enjoys writing. And not since the days of Pierre Burton and Gordon Sinclair writing columns has the Toronto Star given a writer the same freedom. Rosie writes what she sees. If anyone dares to edit her copy, it is done with care and respect.

Rosie reminds you of Pierre Burton in one way. Pierre tended to be overly fond of his own wordsmithing. He could always write a thousand words when 200 words could do the job. In the modern 140-character world of Twitter, Pierre Burton would be a dinosaur. Rosie must also be paid by the word. Her columns are typically over 1000 words. You tend to use various speed reading techniques to quickly grasp what she is going on about.

But every word of Rosie’s column today is another gem. She could get into trouble with the Star’s lawyers for referring to one petitioner before city council executive as a “whack-job.”  It is unlikely there is a judge who would fine her more than a loonie for that bit of slander. On the Internet, nobody cares.

Rosie gets you laughing by telling you about the petitioner who gives the politicians the raspberry. Here you have some 200 people having their three minutes of fame, making fools of themselves in front of the executive committee. This is high humour. The more she tells you about what they said, the less you understand about the basic question.

But Rosie helps. She recognizes that somewhere in the GTA, there will be a casino. ((She might not be aware of the illegal ones that have been thriving under the radar.)  Rosie figures that what the Ontario government wants, the Ontario government gets. And it wants the easy money that a casino offers the proprietors.

Rosie says that the Exhibition grounds or Woodbine would be the best location for the Toronto casino. And that was Babel-on-the-Bay’s stand when this entire dialogue started. Welcome to common sense Rosie!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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“I’m just a lonely boy, lonely and blue.”

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Ottawa’s Paul Anka said it best. You can understand the anguish of his famous song when you feel lonely. And, wow, can you ever feel lonely when you find you are allied with that rag-tag group of misfits on the Toronto Executive Committee. These people want a casino in Toronto for all the wrong reasons.

Toronto Council, according to most of its spokespeople, is motivated solely by greed. They want casino operators to guaranteed hosting fees of at least $100 million per year. No responsible developer can guarantee that from a casino. And woe-betide the casino operator who has to put paying his nut to the city ahead of building and maintaining a healthy base of happy customers.

This fiasco draws you to the conclusion that neither side of the casino issue knows what they are talking about. And that hardly stops them from telling you all about what they do not know.

And now we find that a staff report for city councillors recommends that they use the casino as a carrot for a developer who will include an over-sized convention complex with the casino. The report thinks that such a complex could attract some $392 million in direct spending in the city. What the report fails to tell the councillors is that a casino by itself, properly located and promoted, could keep as many as five per cent of visitors in the city for an extra day and probably generate three times as much direct spending.

The report does, grudgingly, suggest that council support the expansion of Woodbine Entertainment into a full-fledged casino operation. This should have happened years ago and it draws on an entirely different market than a downtown or Scarborough location would serve.

People in Toronto should remember that theirs is the fourth largest English speaking metropolitan area in North America and it attracts over 20 million visitors a year. Nobody cares if you like to gamble or not. Some people do. If we are going to continue to attract visitors to our city, we need to offer a wide range of attractions, activities, sports, theatre, dining, etc. Casinos are just part of the excitement and fun of a great city experience.

Casinos are not a cash cow for lazy city councillors who are bereft of good ideas as to how they can fund the infrastructure and services that make a great city work.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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