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RAMA, ON, July 5, 2016 /CNW/ - For 20 years there's been a place up north. North of boredom, north of the expected, north of the same old song & dance. With warm Canadiana and electric lights. Where full houses meet porter houses. Where guests are treated like friends and friends like family. Welcome to a place exactly like nowhere else. Casino Rama Resort. Welcome to the Great Indoors!
Casino Rama Resort, A Success Story 20 Years in the Making
It was just an ordinary cornfield – a patch of farmland like so many others sprawling off Rama Road that had seen better days. To Rama First Nation, a fiercely proud, progressive people, it's where they planted the seeds of hope from which sprang Casino Rama Resort, a life-changing, landscape-altering enterprise that this year celebrates 20 years as one of Canada's most successful resort casino operations.
Back in the early 1990's, despite the doubts of many, the small community east of Orillia decided to enter the bidding process alongside 13 others to become the host site for the province's first casino on native land. The province decreed that just one First Nation's community would win; it seemed like a pipe dream at best. However Rama defied the odds, made the shortlist and, in December of 1994, the province announced Rama had won the jackpot.
Just 19 months later, in July of 1996, Casino Rama Resort opened its doors. "When it opened, it was electrifying," recalls Ted Williams, a former chief and councillor who was band manager in the years leading up to the opening. "There were 3,500 jobs created, a potential payroll in excess of $100 million … in little old Rama."
Williams, who would go on to become an executive at Casino Rama Resort for five years, vividly recalls the first Saturday night of operation. "I worked until midnight and when I left, the place was just hopping," he says. "I decided to count cars until I got to the corner in Atherley. It took me six minutes and I counted 240 cars – there was this stream of headlights coming toward Rama. I had to pull off to the side of the road because I was overcome with emotion. It was like that movie (Field of Dreams): 'Build it and they will come.' It was overwhelming."
Mary-Anne Willsey, a Day 1 employee – one of an astounding 374 employees who started in July of 1996 and who continue to work at Casino Rama Resort today – still gets goose bumps when she thinks back to opening day. "When we walked in that door the first time and saw the lights and the sparkle and the drama and the majesty of a casino – on treatied land – it was breathtaking," she said with a proud smile. "We had employees who were literally in tears. It was spectacular."
Few could have envisioned how that initial box-like building would develop into a world-class destination that would transform the entire region. Today, Casino Rama Resort, celebrating its 20th anniversary, boasts a dynamic gaming floor with over 2,500 slot machines, more than 110 table games and offers a tasty menu of eight restaurants. It is also home to a state-of-the-art entertainment centre that welcomes A-List entertainers year-round and a magnificent all-suite luxury hotel that is filled to capacity most nights.
"To see what has transpired here in just 20 years is an incredible achievement for this community," says Jenna Hunter, Casino Rama Resort's director of public relations. "We are one of Canada's most successful commercial casinos. Since we opened, close to $9 billion in revenue has been generated."
It's never been just about revenues. "There is a sense of pride and commitment here because it is for a greater good," said Hunter. "It's not just a job and we're not just giving back to the taxpayers of Ontario. This operation is tied so tightly to the Rama community and beyond that to Orillia and the communities of Lake Country; there is a sense of commitment to them as well. We know what we mean to them and what they bring to us … it's something that is felt at every level, from the dealer on the floor up to the president's office."
Willsey, a proud Rama First Nation Ojibwa, agrees. She was operating a downtown Orillia business with her husband and had no inclination to work at Casino Rama Resort when she was offered a job in VIP Services; she initially turned it down.
"When I told my mother, she was horrified I'd turned it down. She said 'It's your responsibility to the community … you could bridge the two cultures.'" said Willsey, the message resonated with her. "When my brother and I were being raised, pre-casino, pre-modernization, our mother used to tell us that within our lifetime we would be proud to be an Indian. The casino represented, to my mother's generation, accomplishment and pride in her people. We all feel that today," said Willsey, who has been promoted several times over 20 years and as an executive director today has earned a seat on the executive committee – the highest office at Casino Rama Resort.
"We are changing the perception of First Nations people here," said Willsey of the casino, one of the country's largest single-site employers of First Nations people, noting every effort is made to attract and accommodate First Nations employees. "It's the cornerstone of who we are."
It is that spirit that infuses Casino Rama Resort, where the experience and the amenities are tailored to the customer. "Everything we do is about creating an experience for our guests," said Hunter, who noted there are more than 16,000 current Players Passport Club members that came on board in 1996 and continue to enjoy the Casino Rama Resort experience. "I think that level of customer loyalty speaks volumes about how much our guests enjoy their time with us and that they love what we have to offer. We treat guests like friends and friends like family, we have for 20 years and we always will. "
Part of that affinity is related to the personal touch and lively atmosphere created by the Casino Rama Resort CREW – everyone from the friendly valets to the personable dealers, the front-line restaurant staff, the enthusiastic Player Services employees and the amiable ushers who help you find a seat inside the Entertainment Centre; has made Casino Rama Resort one of the province's top entertainment destinations.
The state-of-the-art 5,000-seat Entertainment Centre, which opened in 2001, is a modern marvel that can be configured to accommodate arena-style rock shows, stand-up comedians or be transformed into a mixed-martial-arts venue or even a curling rink – it's a quantum leap from the tent that was originally erected in the parking lot that started it all with its inaugural series of Hot Ticket Thursday Concerts back in 1997.
Completing the resort amenities is the luxury, all-suite hotel with 289 rooms and its spectacular Balance in Life Spa that offers an opulent treatment menu. Guests can also enjoy the pristine salt-water indoor horizon pool and hot tub, the eucalyptus steam room, sauna, gym and roof-top patio.
"Make no mistake", says Hunter. "Priority No. 1 is an unmatched gaming experience". When the casino opened, you could dig some quarters out of your pocket, insert them into a slot machine, pull the lever and hope for bunches of cherries to perfectly line up once the reels came to a stop. If luck was on your side, the sweet sound of quarters tumbling out of the machine would signal a win.
Today, the more than 2,500 slot machines no longer produce coins but rather print winnings on a paper ticket. This is just one of the massive customer-service inspired improvements that have transformed the gaming floor including the addition of many convenient easy-to-use kiosks that act as bank machines, a place to redeem earned Players Passport dining rewards and even a way to beat the line at the popular Couchiching Court Buffet. While there are still traditional "line" slot machines, the vast majority these days are multi-game video slot machines that employ touch-screen technology. Some of the more sophisticated slot machines – often featuring pop-culture themes such as Game of Thrones and House of Cards – feature an enhanced sensory experience with comfortable bucket seats equipped with high-quality speakers.
"Video slot machines have become very popular," says Angus Walker, director of gaming operations at Casino Rama Resort, where he has worked since Day 1. "People love the touch-screens and the bonus features … the chances of winning are greater when you play more lines and the video slots allow our guests that opportunity."
"It's just part of what is a world-class gaming experience", says Walker. "Some people may not yet realize that we are now a resort casino, the same size of many Las Vegas strip properties and with the same amenities," he said. "The whole evolution of the property – remember, it started as a corn field – is incredible."
Williams agrees; he said such a game-changing venture was prophesied generations earlier.
"The Aboriginal prophecy, going back centuries, was that The Narrows would become a meeting place for all races," he said. "That prophecy has been fulfilled to a certain extent … People from all four corners of Mother Earth are working and contributing at Casino Rama Resort, which has become a beacon not just in Canada but in North America and beyond – a beacon of development that shows what could possibly happen in a small native community. We're very proud of that."
A success story 20 years in the making, Casino Rama Resort officially celebrates its anniversary on July 31st of this year. Planned celebrations include gaming tournaments, concerts, hotel packages, special dining offers, a Hot Seat Promotion with grand prizes of $20,000 and free sweet treats. For more information about Cheers to 20 Years events, please visit: www.casinorama.com/cheers.
Casino Rama Resort, A Place Pretty Much Exactly Like Nowhere Else
Ontario's Lake Country can be found north of bustling city streets, skyscrapers, and the fast-pace nine to five lifestyle. It's where relaxation and adventure blend perfectly within the natural Canadian backdrop. It's here, in the heart of lake country that you find a place exactly like nowhere else, a premier entertainment resort that sheds the stereotypical larger than life facade of most Vegas style resort casinos - Casino Rama Resort.
Your exploration of the great indoors begins with the casino's luxury all-suite hotel. Inspired by the classic lakeside cottages that were grandfathered to the area, the impressive lobby of the resort's hotel is dominated by timber beams, natural stone and the warm light that bathes the area from the impressive atrium windows. Comfort and style extend throughout each spacious hotel suite where plush bedding, an all-marble four piece bath, separate seating area and cozy gas fireplace treat you to a home away from home.
Immerse yourself in the feeling of calm and relaxation at the full service Balance in Life Spa. Offering a variety of treatments for both men and women, this acclaimed spa features monthly specials including those just for Players Passport and Facebook Fan Club members (tip: membership to both clubs is free!). The saltwater indoor horizon pool, looking out to a sun soaked rooftop patio invites guests to take their time and settle into true relaxation by taking a quick dip or a leisurely swim pre and post treatment. Be sure to leave time to enjoy the invigorating eucalyptus steam rooms and hot tub, available to all spa and hotel guests.
Surrounding the resort are pristine fields farmed for generations by local families making for easy access to farm to table cuisine, something the award-winning Chefs at Casino Rama Resort take pride in. From maple infused dressings and desserts, to fresh berry compotes, Ontario lamb and the bounty of the fall harvest season, each one of the casino's eight unique restaurants brings the sweetness of nature to their specially crafted menus. Fine dining and comfort food go hand-in-hand under cedar branches and waterfalls; offering something for every palate.
The "come as you are" atmosphere at Casino Rama Resort creates an inviting experience on the gaming floor too. It's fun and electric without being intimidating or pretentious even with over 2500 of the hottest slot machines and more than 100 of the most popular table games on offer. The eager and friendly staff are happy to explain the rules of a game and to ensure you have a memorable experience, treating guests like friends and friends like family. In flip-flops and a farmer's tan you may wind up seated next to the night's big name entertainer at the casino's center bar, because that's just how comfortable everyone feels here.
At a place where ZZ Top, Smokey Robinson and Russell Peters can all perform on the same weekend and it makes perfect sense, Casino Rama Resort's Entertainment Centre adds that touch of excitement unlike any other destination resort. Some of the biggest names in entertainment and sports have performed at the 5,000 seat, world-class theatre that has also transformed into a sporting showcase as a tennis court, an ice surface, an MMA octagon and a boxing arena. The legends of country, comedy, classic rock, pop and the silver screen enjoy the intimate setting that brings them so close to their beloved fans while entertainment seekers are treated to a true rock star experience.
Stay, relax, dine, play, rock out and explore all there is to offer in this northern playground. Casino Rama Resort offers the perfect escape from the everyday with all the amenities of a full entertainment destination. It's a place that fuses adventure and excitement with the easygoing character of cottage life and a place pretty much exactly like nowhere else. Welcome to the Great Indoors. Welcome to Casino Rama Resort!
To begin your adventure at the Great Indoors visit us at www.casinorama.com or @CasinoRamaResort on Facebook.
SOURCE Casino Rama Resort
Video with caption: "Video: Located in the heart of Ontario’s Lake Country, Casino Rama Resort is one of Ontario's premier entertainment destinations with over 2,500 slots, 110 gaming tables, eight unique restaurants, a world-class Entertainment Centre, and a luxury, all-suite hotel & spa.". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20160704_C5979_VIDEO_EN_727044.mp4&posterurl=http%3a%2f%2fphotos.newswire.ca%2fimages%2f20160704_C5979_PHOTO_EN_727044.jpg&order=1&jdd=20160705&cnum=C5979
Image with caption: "Casino Rama Resort, A Canadian Success Story 20 Years in the Making (CNW Group/Casino Rama Resort)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160704_C5979_PHOTO_EN_727042.jpg
For further information: Jenna Hunter, Director of Public Relations, Casino Rama Resort, t. 705 329 5179 | c. 705 323 0092