The largest employer of Native people in Canada, Casino Rama since opening its doors in 1996, has become the success story of First Nation’s business.
The casino has never stopped growing, last July the entertainment complex, a 5000-seat theatre was officially opened with country superstar Faith Hill as the opening act. This summer a 300-room hotel will be open for business, it promises to be 4-star all the way with hot tubs in some of the rooms.
Casino Rama has turned a profit since day one because nothing has been left to chance. No expense has been spared to make it a first class casino.
Kenny Rogers whose signature song is the gambler was the first entertainer to appear at Casino Rama and this was before the entertainment complex was built, since then the list of stars who have appeared there include former Beatle Ringo Starr, country sensation Martina McBride, Classic rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival and the godfather of jazz singers Tony Bennett.
The all-star lineup has help put the casino on the forefront of Ontario’s tourist attraction. And one of it’s premier entertainment facilities, not a easy feat considering that it’s a two hour drive from Toronto and the small town of Orillia is it’s only populated neighbor. The marketing has been effective and its reputation has grown as the premier casino in the province
It was conceived as a means of generating wealth for the collective First Nations population in Ontario and has delivered on it’s promise, 400 million dollars has been divided among all native bands in the province
Beyond the Financial gains is the employment opportunities the casino has created, from the beginning the premise has been to not only to create jobs but also open the door to apprenticeship and full time careers. Cindy St. Germain states that it was part of the original plan.
“It’s something that chief and council wanted to happen, since there was going to be such great opportunity here, we wanted to make sure our people got apprenticeships.”
For Lanny Beaver it has allowed him to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a electrician’s career with Guild Electric.” I work on the drawing and drafting. The job is so big and moving so fast there are always a lot of changes. It’s very exciting,” says Lanny.
Another worker Steve Simcoe saw a chance to discover his calling in a hands on situation,” They have us go through a 90 day period to see how you are, see if you’re interested in the trade or another one at that time. It gives you a chance to see how it is and it gives them a chance to see how you perform at the same time.”
Casino Rama also sponsors the ”Awards for Excellence” a program developed to provide financial support to aboriginal students who have completed one year of College or University, the applicants are judged on academic standing and of equal importance their record of community involvement.
Art Frank the president and CEO of Casino Rama sees the awards as a investment in the future of Native leaders, “As a large corporation, we are pleased to be able to assist aboriginal students with their education. It is an important way for us to motivate aboriginal students to excel, many of who struggle financially. By assisting students who are strong academically as well as excellent community workers, we encourage these future community leaders to do more.”
As a native business Casino Rama has done three things that most tribal councils should take note of the planning was done with professional who understood what guidelines to follow, the project was accomplished by creating employment for Natives.
Workers and not just a band aid that doesn’t go beyond the project but helping to develop a lifetime career and funding for professional who will become the future leaders.