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Construction delayed on North Bay casino

$31-million facility expected to create up to 300 job in North Bay

Lady Luck isn't smiling on North Bay's new casino on Pinewood Park Drive.

Construction has hit a snag – a big one called COVID-19. Gateway Casinos had originally targetted a spring opening for its newest property, but construction on Cascades Casino has stopped, and won't start any time soon.

"We can't commit to a date to resume construction in North Bay," Rob Mitchell, Gateway Casinos' director of communications, told BayToday. "Our primary focus is reopening our 12 existing sites across the province."

He did say, however, that Gateway Casinos is firmly committed to opening the local casino at a later date.

Ontario Lottey and Gaming (OLG) selected Gateway to privately operate its gaming centres in late 2016, following a modernization process for the province's lottery industry.

Under the agreement, the Burnaby, B.C.-headquartered Gateway will operate the already existing casinos in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and Thunder Bay, and build a new facility in North Bay.

When plans for North Bay's casino were announced in May 2019, Gateway said it would invest $31 million in the build, and create up to 300 new jobs in North Bay.

The 39,000-square-foot casino, located in the city's south end, will include 300 slots and eight live table games, along with two restaurants.

Mitchell said that construction had proceeded far enough on the facility to self-contain and weatherproof the building, which means it could sit there for an extended period of time without incurring any damage.

He's uncertain when construction might resume.

Across its properties, Mitchell said, the company has more than 5,000 employees anxious to get back to work, and despite the provincial government lifting its construction ban, uncertainty is high.

"We've been operating in the red now for eight weeks with absolutely no cash flow because our sites are closed. We are going to have considerable overhead when we reopen," Mitchell said. "We don't know under what circumstances we'll be able to reopen."

Gateway's priority is to get existing casinos back up and running, although there's been no indication from the province on when that might be.

"The problem right now is the same problem so many other businesses are facing that offer an entertainment product. We're no different from sports franchises, movie theatres and live entertainment, restaurants, travel, and tourism," Mitchell said.

"We're all waiting to see under what conditions we can resume our businesses."