Casino Rama is set to re-open tomorrow morning after being closed for 16 months.
Like the casino’s staff and customers, the surrounding community and local businesses are excited to have the casino back in operation.
Robert Mitchell, the director of communications and public affairs for Gateway Casinos, says the local community is becoming vibrant once again with the re-opening of local businesses in the area.
“This past weekend I was in Orillia. I saw that the restaurants were open, Studbakers was doing good business, and my favourite record store Alleycats had a lineup of people who were waiting in the rain to buy vinyl,” Mitchell said.
“It’s starting to feel like the community is getting back to normal, and we are excited to be a part of it,”
Across the street from the casino at the Rama Country Market, Shell gas station manager Evan Miller says business has suffered in the wake of the casino's closure.
“Things have been really slow for sure,” he said.
“Our primary customer base is still First Nations fuel, so we’ve had a lot of customers through that. Luckily we are not totally dependent on the casino.”
Miller says in the days after the casino closed 16 months ago, traffic on Rama Road virtually disappeared.
“It’s been eerily quiet at times, especially early on in the pandemic. It felt really weird,” he said.
However, Miller is expecting to see a high volume of traffic in the area on Thursday morning, something he hopes to see for the foreseeable future.
“I think we will see a lot more people than we’ve seen in a long time. We will also see a lot of casino employees that we haven’t seen in a while who would usually come by to grab lunch and fuel up,” Miller said.
“We expect to see a lot more foot traffic. We are ready and excited for it.”
Down the street at the Days Inn by Wyndham, general manager Laurie Jaworowicz, says the casino’s long closure took the wind out of the sails of the local hotel.
“It was tough when COVID hit,” she said in an emailed statement.
“We closed our doors in March (2020) and remained closed for a few months. We just were not busy enough to justify keeping our doors open."
The Days Inn re-opened last August and has been surviving since then thanks to the support of local tourism during the warmer months. With the casino opening tomorrow, Jaworowicz anticipates business will pick up significantly.
"We were thrilled to hear the news that Casino Rama will once again be open to the public. This is great news for not only us but for the township of Ramara, and the City of Orillia,” she said.
“Our phone has not stopped ringing, everyone is wanting to know if the casino is open yet," said Jaworowicz. "Our entire team is looking forward to inviting travellers back to the Days Inn where they can enjoy easy access to this amazing venue, along with the outdoor activities and popular attractions this area has to offer.”
The Days Inn will be the only hotel in the immediate area until the casino reopens its hotel.
“We are hoping to have the hotel back up and running in mid-August,” Mitchell said.
"The date we are targeting is Aug. 19, but there are a lot of rooms, close to 300 in the hotel. We have to test every light bulb, every faucet, and they all have to be cleaned and sanitized," Mitchell explained.
"It’s a large building to not have any overnight guests in for such a period of time, so we need some heavy lifting to bring it back up to speed.”
The last amenity to open at Casino Rama will be the entertainment centre, where the casino hosts its concerts and shows.
“We hope that will come in the fall,” Mitchell said.
“For now, we are really anxious and pleased to make the most of these summer months and provide an enjoyable experience for our guests.”