Plans Announced for Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa
In a new deal overseen by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG), the Rideau Carleton Raceway will soon be operated by the Hard Rock International group. The racetrack will be revamped and additional gambling facilities will be added with a total budget of $320 million to fund the project. The new attraction will be known as the Hard Rock Casino Ottawa, and will still be based around the racetrack, which according to its director Andrew Wright, is the “driving force” behind the venue’s popularity.
Hard Rock currently operates entertainment facilities in 75 countries worldwide. These include 175 of their famous café-bars, 24 hotels, and 11 casinos. “We’re thrilled to have been chosen by OLG to create Hard Rock Casino Ottawa,” said Jim Allen, Hard Rock International’s chairperson. “This is a crucial first step towards a larger strategic vision of our world-class brand’s expansion efforts in Ontario and throughout Canada. We are honored to partner with RCR, a reputable and longstanding member of the Ottawa community, and look forward to working with both the RCR and OLG team members through the transition and beyond.”
Hard Rock plans to keep the racing tradition alive at Rideau although the company will essentially take the reigns, holding a stake of 51% in the new venture.
This won’t merely be a change of management and a slight facelift either. Hard Rock plans to add hotel accommodation, an array of entertainment options, dining, and more, all in the spirit of the brand’s rock-n-roll attitude. These physical renovations, which include over 13,000 square meters of gaming space, are set to start in 2019 although Hard Rock will already be involved in the site’s operations in fall of this year.
There are a number of minor limitations that Hard Rock International will have to navigate around to make the plan work, but nothing that the brand won’t be able to handle with ease. According to the City of Ottawa’s zoning laws, a maximum of 21 table games are allowed. Hard Rock won’t initially challenge this, but Allen has stated that he hopes that the city council will consider the size of the investment that’s being made. After all, the project will create a considerable number of new jobs for local residents and should drive up tourism to the area.
This sentiment was strengthened by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and Osgoode Coun. George Darouze, who represents the area the raceway is situated in. Darouze stated that the development is good news for his communities because the revamped complex will be a major boost for employment.
Hard Rock has specified that around 1,900 construction jobs will be opened as well as 2,000 direct and indirect ongoing positions in the company. The company has promised to keep all current employees in their positions with no contract changes for at least 12 months.
That being said, the project isn’t relying on any municipal changes in order to be successful, and the business plan is based on current restrictions. “I wouldn’t say we’re hedging our bets,” Allen added. “We certainly understand what the scope is today and we understand what it could be. We’ll take one step at a time through the process itself.”
Realistically, the municipality isn’t likely to put up too many obstacles. Already, Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who represents Ottawa at OLG community meetings, has stated that the council will be open to applications by Hard Rock Casino Ottawa to expand their offering of table games.
“I’m not a gaming professional,” Moffatt said. “The (raceway), and working with OLG and Hard Rock, I think they know the industry, they know their market, they know what they’re looking for. They’ll evaluate that as to what they are looking for, what they need, what they think is viable on this site, and they’ll bring us that and we’ll evaluate that on its merits.”