Niagara Windfalls

July 17th, 2007   •   12 comments   

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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  1. posted on Jul 17, 2007 at 1:11 AM fears with Singapore having a casino includes the increase amount of gamblers falling deeper and deeper into erm..gambling. We also have the innocent ones who may fall trap into this.

    yeah I know about the help groups available out there but isn’t prevention better than cure? that was a term coined by one of the government agencies (can’t remember which one) sometime back but it does apply as well.

    of course I can’t discount the fact that our economy will boom big time..your stats are amazing man..fwah…but I am hoping that it will be worth it…only time will tell..I am crossing my fingers on this one.

  2. posted on Jul 17, 2007 at 1:40 PM


    Thanks for your comments. I think that there are genuine concerns and fears about what a casino would do. It is an issue that has been debated and thought about at length by all levels of society. Like you, I am hopeful that the safeguards that are put in place could help to curb this.

    On the other hand, I am a believer in slowly liberalising Singapore’s environment subject to certain tolerance levels by the general population. With the Internet so widely available, all the vices in the world are actually at one’s fingertips. By raising the issues of problem gambling to the fore, we may actually be helping to curb the problem rather than promote it.

    I suppose there may never be a right or wrong in such issues. Ultimately it has to be a judgement call. Being in the lifestyle attractions business and seeing what’s happening around the world, I know why we have to swallow this bitter pill. Regional and global competition is sooo keen that if we rest on our laurels for too long, we may never be able to catch up.

  3. posted on Jul 17, 2007 at 11:45 PM

    The “before” version must have been so old and defunct. Most (if not all) casinos make money! Even if built in the middle of nowhere, a casino will make money. BUt of course, I’m not talking about those govt related casino projects. If impose too many restrictions, no one will want to visit.

  4. posted on Jul 17, 2007 at 11:51 PM


    Hmmm…. I guess it must have been quite utilitarian when they first built it but it gradually took a life of its own. Well, living in the States, you probably would experience these casinos first hand yourself right?

  5. posted on Jul 18, 2007 at 4:30 AM

    Haha this may be a bit off topic but the Sydney Opera House took many years of fundraising and construction to be built. In the end, the public got very upset of seeing a construction site for 7 years on their beautiful harbour. In the end the government set up a casino to raise funds for its construction. People were very happy because the construction would finally be complete and they felt like they had the opportunity of getting something in return.

  6. posted on Jul 18, 2007 at 5:48 AM

    I support the building of a casino in Singapore. It does bring in economic benefits.

    Without the IRs, Singaporeans are already exposed to much vice, gambling and crimes. I doubt having IRs will get any worse.

    I pull ‘one-arm bandits’ once a while. As long as I don’t get addicted, I shouldn’t become a compulsive gambler.

    For those gamblers who are gleefully preparing for the opening of our IRs, they would have continued with their gambling somewhere.

    I just hope that the IRs will make us all huat ar!!!

  7. posted on Jul 18, 2007 at 5:49 AM


    Thanks for visiting and that insight from Sydney! I guess this works similarly to the principle in UK, where the National Lottery Fund is involved in funding various arts and museum projects. Singapore’s Totalisator Board is also involved in funding various projects like the Esplanade amongst others.

    BTW, just realised that you are Su Yuen! Nice new blog… 😉

  8. posted on Jul 18, 2007 at 5:54 AM


    I have many family and friends who do play with STRIKE!, 4D and other forms of gambling now and then. And of course we have mahjong kakis, chor tai ti kakis, and the occasional CNY blackjack games.

    I guess so long as one is able to control oneself and not go overboard, it should be fine. Personally, I don’t gamble and do not really enjoy doing that. However, I am fascinated by the gaming industry and how it works – more for intellectual stimulation than anything else.

  9. posted on Jul 18, 2007 at 12:48 PM


    Yep it certainly does… Even for a destination like the Niagara Falls!

  10. posted on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:10 AM

    Hahaha…not true. Not every state in the US has legalized casino gambling Eg California has not approved full-fledged casino….but but but there are still few casinos here out in agricultural/rural areas in CA…sitting on the land owned by the native Indian tribes. They have their own county legislation not so much controlled by the govt. So most casinos in California are owned by native Indians. Really interesting. It’s something like the 99-year land and free-hold land in Singapore. If one day, someone found “gold” under the grounds of a 99-yr leasehold land, the “gold” belongs to govt, but if free-hold, then belongs to public. Hahahah….not exactly the same situation but just drawing some parallel lines.

  11. posted on Jul 19, 2007 at 9:49 AM


    Interesting point you raised and it does also say something about the American government giving some autonomy to the Native Americans. I met a Cherokee who was a mayor a long time ago when I was in Oklahoma, and he had this long hair tied in a pony tail. I suppose there are some safeguards imposed by the American Indian communities themselves to safeguard against addiction.

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