The future of the Kenora casino may be in jeopardy.
Gateway Casinos and Entertainment director of communications and public affairs Rob Mitchell says there are no plans to begin construction on the approved $21 million project on the former factory on Ninth Street North in Kenora.
Mitchell says Gateway is refocusing its efforts to boost revenue and get employees back to work as many businesses in the hospitality industry have been battered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like most businesses in the hospitality industry, we have been closed for almost two years now. We were able to open sporadically at some sites, but we were subject to all kinds of restrictions. We had a lot of challenges, and that significantly affected our business.
Prior to the pandemic, Kenora’s tentative completion date was expected to be in the first quarter of 2022, according to Gateway. The project was approved by Kenora councilors in 2012 and passed provincial reviews in 2019.
Throughout the interview with Q104 and KenoraOnline, Mitchell kept a straight face when it came to the future of the Kenora casino, declining to comment on whether Gateway now plans to fold on the project.
“We are really taking a cautiously optimistic approach to the future. Like any business, we need a period of stability to recover. And we’ll see what happens. It’s baby steps. These are difficult times, times that are currently somewhat uncertain. I can’t predict what the future holds.
The $21 million project includes a 23,300 square foot casino with a 6,200 square foot gaming hall and 200 slot machines, as well as Gateway’s Match Eatery. A presentation to Kenora councilors in 2020 also included plans for 100 acres of new housing, with room for industrial and commercial lots.
Mitchell explains that Gateway’s new focus is to help ease people’s anxieties and concerns when returning to large social settings, which he says will be an ongoing issue for those in the hospitality industry. But he says Gateway hopes to see a full house in Kenora if the project goes ahead.
“Right now, we are focused on resuming our business. But we are optimistic. Things seem to be going better. Our goal is to get our employees back to work and back to business,” he adds.
Gateway Casinos recently opened its 11th location in Ontario. The $41 million project has helped create 200 new jobs in the North Bay area. Gateway also operates two casinos in Alberta and 14 in British Columbia, with approximately 6,500 employees. They have been at the table for over 30 years now.
Announced in October 2021, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment announced a $1.25 billion loan to refinance its capital structure and balance its finances. The Fortress Investment Group was the main investor, but Gateway Casinos is still majority owned by the Catalyst Capital Group.