A new name, more slots, and a 300-seat entertainment space are some of the changes in store for Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino when a multimillion dollar update is complete.
Great Canadian Gaming Corp. announced today it’s rebranding the former Cloverdale Raceway as Elements Casino, an “all-inclusive, full service gaming entertainment venue.”
Along with live entertainment, new dining areas, and more casino games – including 550 interactive slot machines – comes a commitment to the sport of standardbred horse racing, in keeping with the facility’s roots as a racetrack.
The $11 million overhaul is similar in scope to what Great Canadian spent rebranding its Coquitlam casino as the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.
Elements Casino will offer up all the “elements” of a casino, along with live entertainment and dining options – attractions that don’t necessarily involve gambling, “which is what’s made River Rock and Hard Rock so successful,” said Chuck Keeling, vice president of stakeholder relations and responsible gaming for Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which has owned and operated the facility since 2004, when it re-opened as Fraser Downs following a $40 million redevelopment.
Last September, Great Canadian announced it had renewed its leasing option with B.C. Lottery Corporation to extend the term of its operating contract with Fraser Downs for another 10 years, providing greater certainty in terms of reinvestment.
And in March, the company announced a redevelopment was in store for Fraser Downs, but has kept details under wraps until today.
Figuring out what amenities should be on offer, what cosmetic changes to make – and, crucially – whether to change the name – was an “exhaustive exercise” that involved internal focus groups and a lot of soul-searching, according to Keeling.
In the end, “We thought it was important to rebrand with a name change because we wanted to emphasize just how different and significant this was going to be,” he said. “We’re confident we’re going to get it right. We think people will be pretty excited.”
Today’s announcement sets out more details on what’s in store: there will be a 70-seat entertainment lounge along with a versatile entertainment space with a 300-seat capacity showcasing local and regional talent; new dining options that will include a buffet, lounge, and casual dining outlets; and the casino will offer more games such as blackjack, roulette and a semi-private baccarat room.
The interior will be updated with wood, stone and tiles – contemporary touches – and the exterior will feature open spaces and vibrant colours.
The overall mix of amenities “won’t be dissimilar” to Cascades Casino in Langley City, but what will set Elements apart will be the horse racing, he said.
In 2014, a multi-year deal was agreed to by Great Canadian, which also operates Hastings Racecourse – home to thoroughbred horse racing – and B.C.’s standardbred and thoroughbred sectors. The deal guarantees racing for five more years, offering stability for the industry in the short term.
Keeling said the provincial government allows the racing side of the operations a proportionate share of slot machine revenue.
“The higher the revenue for slot machines, the better it is for them,” he said.
Merging the racing staff of Fraser Downs and Hastings Racecourse is “something that has not been contemplated,” Keeling said.
“They’re two different entities. Two different operations. Certainly, for the foreseeable future, it will remain that way.”
Keeling – who sold race programs as a kid at the Cloverdale Raceway founded by his grandfather – said he is excited on a personal level about what the redevelopment will bring.
“For someone that has as much history and sentiment vested in the place as I do, I’m really excited. I wish we were opening tomorrow, not six to seven months from now.”
Fraser Downs, including standardbred racing (resuming Oct. 1), will remain fully operational during renovations, with Elements Casino opening toward the end of 2015.