or the second time in two years, Canada’s largest private casino operator has unveiled plans for a casino complex in London, Ontario, in the city’s south end. Gateway Casino and Entertainment said the CAD 75 million (over USD 56.9 M) Starlight Casino it hopes to build on Wonderland Road near Wharncliffe Road will create 700 new jobs.
A public meeting was held at the London Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening to present the details. The 9,290 square metre building will include 900 slot machines, 40 table games, live music, and several restaurants, the company said. The British Columbia-based casino giant is billing the project as its largest investment in Ontario to date.
“This casino will provide jobs for people who are looking for them,” said Gerry Macartney, the head of London’s Chamber of Commerce, as reported by The London Free Press. He praises the southwest location, pointing to a booming commercial area and easy access to highways 401 and 402. “Where the 401 and 402 meet, that is at the apex of the busiest trade corridor on the planet. It’s strategically important for them, and for us,” Macartney said.
Gateway has applied to rezone the site, at 3334 and 3354 Wonderland Rd. S., between Bradley Avenue and Wharncliffe Road near big-box retail stores. The request will go to council next month, to the city’s Planning and Environment Committee. If approved, construction is slated to start in September. Gateway intends to open the casino in 2021.
“We really envision London being the hub of the entertainment experience in Southwestern Ontario,” said Carrie Kormos, Gateway’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, pointing to the company’s smaller casinos and slots in Woodstock, Clinton, Dresden and Chatham. “Whether you’re looking for a night out of live entertainment or dining or gambling, we’re going to have lots of options to suit all of those tastes. Many of our restaurants also will be family friendly, which we think is exciting,” she said.
The Wonderland Road application is missing the 125-room hotel that was part of the 2017 casino proposal for Western Fairgrounds, the original location where Gateway pitched a glitzy $140 million (USD 106.3 M) casino complex. Those details were presented to council 18 months ago, before the company abandoned plans for that site.
Gateway – which took over operation of the slots at the Western Fair from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. in 2017 – wanted to buy the land at the Western Fairgrounds outright or negotiate a better lease. But after more than year of negotiations, it abandoned the Western Fair proposal and instead purchased land from concrete company N-J Spivak Ltd. in southwest London.
“We’ve tried to revamp our proposal and our plans to be suitable to that neighbourhood or that commercial zone. However the number of the amenities and the level of fit and finish will be just as spectacular as we were planning at our previous site,” Kormos explained.
In the meantime, the slots at Western Fair will remain open. Staff working there will be transferred to the Wonderland Road site once it’s built. The company is also building a CAD 36 million casino in Chatham-Kent, expected to open in August.