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Reopening of venues drives casino revenue, investment

Strong growth in Alberta gambling revenues drives fresh investment
O'Chiese Hospitality expanded and relocated Red Deer's Jackpot Casino to the Red Deer Resort and Casino, one of several new investments in the province's casino sector.

The former Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer reopened Sept. 8 as the Red Deer Resort and Casino, marking yet another investment in the province’s casino sector this year.

The 241-room property was acquired two years ago from Temple Hotels Inc. by O’Chiese Hospitality Limited Partnership, a venture of the O’Chiese First Nation, with the long-term goal of adding a casino as part of its economic development strategy.

“The completion of the casino is a major milestone for us and the City of Red Deer,” said George Yammine, CEO of O’Chiese Business and Investment Centre, which oversees economic development for O’Chiese. “The casino will be a key driver of tourism and economic growth in the region, becoming a hub for entertainment for the region and beyond.”

O’Chiese has been a significant investor in Edmonton’s residential rental market but the Red Deer hotel was an opportunity to diversify its income-producing holdings.

“We gambled on it. But now look at it. When COVID’s done we can start making money on it,” O’Chiese First Nation Chief Douglas Beaverbones told local media when the purchase was announced in 2021.

The resort’s 38,000-square-foot casino is a relocation of Red Deer’s existing Jackpot Casino, which O’Chiese acquired in 2017.

“While no new electronic gaming machines were added, table games were added to the venue,” according to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Cannabis (AGLC).

In addition to the casino, O’Chiese has also refurbished the property’s guest rooms. In August, O’Chiese proceeded with demolition of two nightclubs on the east side of the resort.

Casino operators in Alberta have seen good times since the end of pandemic-era restrictions on events and other public gatherings.

AGLC saw charitable gaming proceeds increase to $1.2 billion in its most recent fiscal year from $495 million the previous year. AGLC also reported a nearly 50 per cent increase in net sales for both video lottery terminals and slots in the period, with close to a 50 per cent jump.

The opening in Red Deer is just the latest investment in Alberta’s casino operations.

Calgary’s Ace Casino also relocated to its new venue next to the Calgary International Airport. In addition, developer Kurt Belich opened an 88-slot casino at racing entertainment centre Track on 2 in Lacombe last October as part of an expansion of the venue.

With a view to growing its own portfolio of gaming properties, New York-based Vici Properties Inc. acquired four properties in the province on Sept. 6 from Century Casinos Inc. for $221.7 million. The deal followed an initial purchase in January of four properties from PURE Canadian Gaming Corp. for $271.9 million.

Both transactions were sale-leaseback deals that promised attractive long-term lease revenue to Vici while operations of the casinos themselves remained with the properties’ former owners.