Grand Villa Casino open for business in downtown Edmonton
‘It’s immaculate. I’ve never seen anything like it before’
Hundreds of people waited in a line that snaked from the Grand Villa Casino's 104th Avenue entrance down 102nd Street to get a glimpse of what lay inside on opening night.
The $32-million, 60,000-square-foot facility is attached to the new Rogers Place arena. It boasts 600 slot machines, 28 table games and seven restaurants.
Mary Tima was one of the first people to get inside when the doors opened to the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday. She said when she saw the game floor, her jaw dropped.
"It's immaculate. I've never seen anything like it before," Tima told CBC News.
But the crowds cut her stay short. She was back outside by 8 p.m.
"It was very packed, [too] packed to walk through — too many people around," Tima said. "It was very hard to get around."
She plans to come back and check out the higher end restaurants — Atlas Steak and Fish, and Match Eatery and Public House — when they're less busy
Tony Santo is the president and CEO of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, which owns the new Casino and used to own the Baccarat Casino.
"It takes me back to when we did our press announcement in the spring of 2015 when I said that the Grand Villa is only a few hundred yards away from the Baccarat, but it's worlds apart," Santo said at a press conference a few hours before the big unveil.
The Baccarat closed about a week ago.
Santo told reporters the 200 employees who worked there were offered positions at the Grand Villa, and that an additional 200 positions were created.
The Baccarat has "pretty much been decommissioned by AGLC," he said, although Gateway still has a few items (namely office furniture and supplies) left to move.
Santo emphasized his company doesn't control the future of the Baccarat building or property, but added that he was "certain there's plenty of people lining up to make sure it gets torn down as quickly as possible."
Bob Black, the executive vice-president of the Katz Group, which operates Rogers Place, said they are excited by the pace of construction in the adjacent area which has been branded "Ice District."
"We always believed that the arena done right would be a great catalyst and it's absolutely proving to be that," Black said after the press conference.
Rogers Place opens Thursday.