Company already visited city, says development would definitely include amenities
Caesars Entertainment, one of the world's largest gaming and casino operators, is definitely interested in building a casino and other amenities in Greater Sudbury, says a spokesperson for the company.
And Michael Ras says Caesars is interested in building an entertainment complex in the city, not a standalone casino.
"The short answer is yes," Ras said, in an interview March 7, when asked if Caesars views Sudbury as an attractive market.
"They are intending to submit to the OLG's RFPQ for the northern bundle, which is due on March 14. They're doing their due diligence on the market and trying to understand what it's all about."
Under the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's multi-stage process, companies have until March 14 to take part in the request for pre-qualification (RFPQ) process, in which the OLG pre-qualifies companies to bid on the chance to build casinos in the northern bundle.
The northern bundle includes Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Kenora. The OLG will pick a list of successful pre-qualified bidders to move to the next stage — the request for proposals — sometime in May. Those bidders will have to come up with proposals to build casinos in all cities in the northern bundle.
The OLG hopes to have a successful bidder in place before the end of the year.
Ras works for GCI Group, a Toronto-based PR company that is working with Caesars in the Ontario market. He said he and representatives from the company visited Sudbury in December, and were impressed.
"What we heard when we were up in Sudbury is that the economy is doing well, (the city) has a bright future," Ras said. "And that an entertainment complex that includes the casino would be well received. Those are all positive things.
"We had one set of meetings with some city officials and got a briefing from them on some of their vision and talked in general terms about what the future of the city will look like ... It was a very good meeting."
Ras said he's familiar with the resolution the city passed Feb. 26 supporting a casino development that "may" include a convention centre, a hotel, an arts centre and an OHL arena.
"I'm familiar with it, but I haven't received any feedback or reaction on it from Caesars," he said. "Our comment on it at this point would be that it will go into the mix of consideration."
When asked if building something as expensive as an OHL arena would scare off Caesars, he said it was too soon to make that determination.
"It's a little early in the process to see where that fits," he said. "The best way to say it is that it has to fit in with the rest of the business plan and the market opportunity.
"Certainly what would come with a development in Sudbury is a number of amenities. Caesar's is not interested in developing just a standalone casino. It would be a casino with other amenities.
"What those amenities are is still to be determined."
However, Ras said that Caesars views the Ontario market as attractive and a place they want to invest.
"Certainly Sudbury in that mix is an attractive proposition," he said.
Caesars is partnering with Rock Gaming to pursue opportunities in Ontario, he said. The companies recently partnered on two casinos in Ohio and one in Baltimore, each development worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The most recent, Horseshoe Cincinnati, is Ohio's fourth casino and was a US$400 million project, while Horseshoe Baltimore was a US$350 million project.
"Rock Gaming is partnered with Caesars in Ontario for further developments," Ras said. "The model that Caesars and Rock are bringing to Baltimore and Cincinnati is an urban integrated model that seeks to locate a casino in an urban setting to add to the entertainment life of the city."
It's a model they will use if they get an opportunity to bid on a casino in Sudbury, but the scale of the project is far from being determined, he said.
"In terms of market size, we just haven't got to that point yet in the analysis," he said, adding the group hopes the OLG makes a decision "sooner rather than later, for obvious reasons."
Northern Life contacted 10 of the biggest casino operators in the world to gauge interest in building in the Sudbury market. Most hadn't responded by press time, but Mary Warner, speaking on behalf of MGM Resorts, said the company's attention lies elsewhere in Ontario.
"MGM's interest is focused on the GTA," she said in an email. "They are not planning a bid in Sudbury."
And David Strow, director of corporate communications for Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp., also said the company has plenty on its plate for the time being.
"Over the last 16 months, Boyd Gaming has grown substantially, acquiring six casino properties in four (U.S.) states," Strow said in an email. "Our company's current focus is on the successful integration of these properties into our operations."