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Sault Ste. Marie celebrates 25 years of gambling, $35M raised for the city

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Last week marked a quarter century of gambling and gaming in Sault Ste. Marie.

Last week marked a quarter century of gambling and gaming in Sault Ste. Marie at this Bay Street casino location. May 23, 2024. (Cory Nordstrom/CTV News Northern Ontario)

The Bay Street casino serves as a first for the industry in Ontario in many categories – the site was the third overall casino in the province, the first one outside of Niagara Falls while also being the first in the north and was the first purpose-built casino.

“For OLG this was an anchor property,” said Ontario Lottery and Gaming board chair Jim Warren.

“It was one of the first at casinos in Ontario and so we learned an awful lot of great lessons on how we would expand across the rest of the province.”

Throughout the last 25 years, there have been many changes, including ownership and a lot on the casino floor.

“We went from a coin-in type of business where you're putting tokens into a machine, to a ticket-in ticket-out. We call it Tito and that kind of opened the door for, you know, the business to kind of develop and progress,” said Gateway Casinos Sault Ste. Marie general manager Vince Vommaro.

“Now there's, you know, a number of machines. There are more video machines as opposed to real machines.”

Over the last 25 years, 36 employees have remained at the company starting line in the late 90s.

These staff are referred to as ‘day-oners’ some have moved around the casino floor but they told CTV News that it is the energy of the job and the patrons that have kept them here.

“You get to know the customers, right,” said ‘day-oner’ Lisa Mah-Sayo.

“I mean, you know, you win, you lose, you just build up a rapport with them and you try to make it the best environment for them.”

A game table at Gateway Casinos Sault Ste. Marie on Bay Street on May 23, 2024. (Cory Nordstrom/CTV News Northern Ontario)

A ceremonial cheque was presented to Mayor Matthew Shoemaker at the anniversary celebration on Thursday, representing the more than $35 million the casino has paid the city since 1999.

OLG officials presented Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker with a ceremonial cheque for more than $35 million - representing the funds the gaming corporation has paid the city since 1999 on May 23, 2024. (Cory Nordstrom/CTV News Northern Ontario)

“It's typically about $1.2 - $1.3 million per year and historically, it went to the hospital until the hospital was built and outfitted with new equipment,” said Shoemaker.

“Then it's gone to physician recruitment, it's gone to asset management, things like upgrades to the GFL Memorial Gardens the John Rhodes, the museum, the libraries.”

Officials said not only has the casino contributed millions to the city's coffers, but it has also raised more than $500,000 from staff campaigns to fund 50 local charities.

Employing 140 staff, city officials said the success of the casino is critical to the growth of the Sault.

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