Since opening its doors in November of last year, the newest Ontario casino in Wasaga Beach has been nothing short of a success – and the town of just over 20,000 couldn’t be more excited.
The Playtime Casino Wasaga Beach is the latest addition to the town’s impressive catalogue of draws. And the Gateway Casinos facility is a $34.3 million investment back into the community.
“The casino is one of our major employers now,” said Andrew McNeill, chief administrative officer for the Town of Wasaga Beach. “About 140 jobs were created and that’s a big deal for a small town.”
Even in its early stages, the community situated along South Georgian Bay is already reaping the benefits of its new casino.
“It’s been wildly successful to this point,” said McNeill. “In its first 39 days, it exceeded expectations.”
McNeill is referring to the 39-day period between November 22, 2022 – December 31, 2022, in which the casino received its first quarterly gaming revenue payment of $152,138 from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for its role as a host community.
Quarterly payments are just the beginning in a long line of benefits brought about by the shoreside community’s new gambling facility.
New Ontario casino is a hit with locals
In the past, Wasaga residents had to embark on road trips to enjoy the casino experience. Now, they have the option to play at home, so-to-speak.
“Prior to this casino opening, there would be busloads of our residents going to other communities like Rama and Innisfil,” said McNeill.
For the committee tasked with locating the casino, keeping locals local was a key point of emphasis.
“Where the casino landed (adjacent to Highway 26) is very much about appealing to locals,” McNeill said.
But it’s not just the influx of locals that will continue to benefit the community.
“We have a strong local population that uses the casino and it’s a draw for neighbouring communities. From that perspective it’s provided a great local amenity that will have incredible spinoffs for our town.”
Location works for locals, but…
For small towns like Wasaga Beach, tourism is the engine that drives the local economy. The beach-side community attracts over 1.6 million people annually.
“Tourism is our business,” said McNeill.
With more than one-fifth of residents employed in tourism-related industries (accommodation, food, and retail), there are few towns similarly equipped to handle high volume tourist seasons than Wasaga Beach.
Casino would have been even better on the beach
But Wasaga’s chief administrative officer can’t help but wonder if the location of the casino utilizes his town’s biggest strength.
“The council, previous to the last council, that put the casino where it is, actually wanted it at the beachfront. We wanted it at the beachfront because we felt it would be a catalyst for a significant hotel on the beach, a waterpark like Fallsview, and drive year-round tourism traffic,” McNeill said.
“I still think it will bring investment, as well as surrounding accommodation facilities and retail. But not to the extent it could have had it been put on the beachfront.”
McNeill’s hope of maximizing the casino’s impact on the community leads him to see things from two different viewpoints.
“I’m trying to be positive but also critical, as well,” he said. “At the end of the day, irrespective of where the casino landed, it’s going to contribute positively to our community.”