Carved out of a cornfield near Orillia 16 years ago, Casino Rama has grown to become an all-season resort and one of Ontario’s most-popular attractions.
It was no gamble to launch this venture on the Mnjikaning First Nation Reserve, near the Narrows between lakes Simcoe and Couchiching.
Beginning modestly with one main building housing the casino and restaurants, there was a tent where world-class entertainers including Tony Bennett performed.
Now there’s an all-suite hotel and spa, entertainment complex, conference facilities and 10 restaurants serving an average of 10,000 meals a day.
About 8,000 people – or almost three million annually – make the trek to Rama along with 30 tour buses daily.
Rolling the dice
The success of Casino Rama could lead to even bigger things soon.
“We are looking at doing extensive renovations to heighten the customer experience,” said Jenna Hunter, media relations manager.
The investment being considered by casino owner Penn National Gaming, Inc. would include relocating the main entrance, possibly adding another restaurant and bar, expanding the “gaming” areas including the poker and high limits areas, and streamlining the valet parking.
Since the distinctive 300 room, all-suite hotel is “99.9% booked” year-round, another hotel tower is on the wish list.
Casino Rama now offers a “complete entertainment experience” with more than 2,500 slot machines, 110 table games, “unique” restaurants and a 5,001-seat Entertainment Centre.
The full-service hotel has the Balance in Life Spa, adult-only fitness facilities and an indoor swimming pool, and there are conference facilities for up to 800 people.
New are the immensely popular “Mighty Millionaire” slot games with progressive jackpots starting at $1 million.
Themes include Michael Jackson: King of Pop, Grease, Money Vault, Cash Spin and Golden Pharaoh.
Casino Rama had eight winners of the previous Megabucks’ jackpots including Roger Berube of Barrie, Ont. taking $1.78 million last month and a Huntsville man who scooped up $3.1 million in February.
It had the largest Canadian slot jackpot of $9 million won in 2008 by a Toronto woman.
Upcoming are the Monster Bash Slot Tournament on Oct. 30 and the Fall Cruzin’ “hot seat” event on Nov. 3 when four cars will be given away and $100 gas cards every five minutes.
Seeing the sights
This all-season resort is set within Lake Country, a most-scenic spot in Ontario just south of Muskoka.
“We encourage guests to get out and see the beautiful countryside and attend the fairs and festivals,” Hunter said.
There’s a new partnership with Midland Tours offering boat cruises including one winding down now of fall colours trips on the Trent-Severn Waterway from Port Severn.
Other activities are fishing, waterskiing, golfing, mountain biking, skiing, snowmobiling while scenic hiking trails surround the area.
It’s show time for food, fun
The restaurants employ 600 people and are overseen by industry veterans Orhan Gozutok, director of food and beverage, and Dave Han, assistant director.
“We specialize in sourcing the finest local ingredients for our menus that change to offer the best of each season,” Han said.
St. Germain’s Steakhouse features AAA beef and seafood options include live lobster from the tank.
There are also Lombardi’s (Italian), Couchiching Court Buffet (a bargain at $16.95 for dinner), the Willow (authentic Cantonese), Legends (food court), Dream Catcher Sports Lounge, Noodle Bar, Cedar (Classic Canadiana), Weirs (24-hour hotel restaurant) and the Firestarter Lounge.
After dinner, the Entertainment Centre features many legendary and Asian and Italian performers with added sports offerings such as a Toronto Raptors Intra-Squad game on Oct. 28 and Bellator 79 fighting championships on Nov. 2.
Upcoming are Travis Tritt, Oct. 12; the Go-Go’s, Oct. 13; Jeff Foxworthy, Oct. 14; Russell Peters, Oct. 18, 19; the Fab Four, Oct. 20; Air Supply, Oct. 26, 27; Frankie Valli, Nov. 8; Jim Gaffigan, Nov. 9; Roger Hodgson, Nov. 16, 17; and Rita McNeil and Frank Mills Christmas, Nov. 30, Dec. 1.
Employing 2,500 people and open 24 hours a day, Casino Rama has contributed $8 million to assist local organizations, agencies and charities.
IF YOU GO
Casino Rama is located at 5899 Rama Rd., Rama, Ont. www.casinorama.com; 1-800-832-PLAY (7529)
From Toronto: Take Highway 400 North to Highway 11, exit at Highway 12 South and turn left onto Rama Road.
Bus companies across southern Ontario offer return trips for a “nominal” fee that includes a free meal or buffet.