Niagara Windfalls

Niagara Falls Photo courtesy of Laffy4K

I recently attended a talk on Casino Marketing by Daniel Shummy, a Las Vegas marketing veteran. One of the most interesting topics he shared was how Niagara Falls transformed itself.

Think of Niagara Falls in Canada and what crosses your mind? Great lakes perhaps? Holiday destination? How about those great iconic waterfalls and rapids often seen in movies?

How about slot machines, card tables and blackjack?

Established in 1996, Casino Niagara is a government-owned project set up by the Canadian government to boost tourism in the Niagara Falls area. Before the casino and resort was set up, the main attractors in that region were the falls themselves, Skylon Tower, daredevils, Maid of the Mist, jet boats, a butterfly museum, festival of lights, and for honeymooners, the romantic ions in the air.

In a desperate bid to stave off falling tourism arrivals, the Canadian government back in 1995 decided to invest about US$150 million in the casino. A team of Las Vegas veterans were roped in to convert a defunct old amusement hall to a gaming facility in 100 days. When it first started, it only had one snack bar.

This yielded positive results. In its first year of operation, Casino Niagara reaped US$500 million of profits. It also boosted Niagara's regional tourism efforts as seen below:

1995 Before Casino Niagara

- 10 million annual visitors
- US$1 billion in sales
- 4,000 hotel rooms
- 30% hotel occupancy (yeah its that bad!)
- 20,000 tourism employment

2006 After Casino Opened

- 20 million visitors annually
- US$2.2 billion sales
- 8,000 hotel rooms
- 60% hotel occupancy
- 49,000 folks employed in tourism

Apparently, there were lots of positive spillovers from this endeavour. Surrounding retail, F&B and attraction businesses were not cannibalised. In fact, they benefited from the redemption of loyalty points gained by the casino and slot player's club. Generally, fears of rising crime and vice were also unfounded although this may be debatable.

Hopefully, Singapore's experience with our two upcoming Integrated Resorts will be as sweet as Canada's experience! Next up - The Las Vegas Experience.

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