On the Casinos of Manitoba
By Kelly Parker
It seems like casino-style gaming has always been a fact of life in Winnipeg and across the province, but it was only relatively recently Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries opened up gaming in Manitoba. At one time, the only table gaming in town was on a seasonal basis at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, but the opening of the Crystal Casino in the Hotel Fort Garry – the first of its kind in Canada – in 1989 changed that. The Crystal Casino closed down in 1999, but by that time, Club Regent and McPhillips Station Casino were well established, lately joined by two more major stand-alone casinos, namely the Southbeach Casino and Resort north of Winnipeg, and the Sand Hills Casino in Westman.
Club Regent Casino (clubregent.com)
Club Regent Casino was opened in 1993 at 1425 Regent Ave. W., and is operated by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. “In Winnipeg,” says Executive General Manager Rhena Mennel, “there is really nothing else like it, with an all encompassing experience that could include dinner, a show, maybe some gaming or a relaxing time with friends in the lounge. We see it as an all-in-one experience, as opposed to just gaming. We have a constantly rotating calendar of special events and free roaming entertainment. I think in that way, the entertainment side of the casino itself is a bit different than anything else in the city.
The casino is also one of the few places in the city where you can get a mental break from winter. “You walk into Club Regent – especially in the middle of winter – and it’s quite tropical,” adds Mennel.
The current renovations grew out of the development of the Club Regent Event Centre, Winnipeg’s newest concert-style live music venue. The room is designed for flexibility, able to, as Kelly Berehulka, Senior Entertainment Buyer for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries explains, “accommodate everything from a flat-floor layout for weddings, a tiered cabaret layout for presentations, and a dinner and show format, up to full capacity theatre, with multiple sizes of dance pits (for shows such as Bret Michaels, Dallas Smith, etc.).”
182,000 square feet (not including the new 1,300-seat Event Centre)
Electronic Games: 1,181
Table games: 30
Restaurants & lounges: Jag’s Buffet, Toukie’s Lounge
Accommodations: CanadInns Club Regent
McPhillips Station Casino (mcphillipsstation.com)
Opened in 1993 at 484 McPhillips at Jarvis Ave., McPhillips Station Casino is operated by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and is themed around the train station concept given its proximity to the Westin train yards.
“Entertainment is limited to the Upper Deck on the second floor,” notes Mennel, “with the sports lounge and the large poker room. They have large poker tournaments there as well. The two casinos are a little bit different, but they do have their similarities as well. McPhillips Station is going through it’s own renovation right now inside, and the parkade was added recently adjacent to the casino.”
Electronic Games: 1,183Table games: 38Restaurants & lounges: Michelle’s Restaurant, Dixie’s Lounge, Double Down Lounge, Upper Deck Sports BarAccommodations: CanadInns McPhillips Station Casino Hotel
Southbeach Casino (southbeachcasino.ca)
Located 30 minutes north of Winnipeg on Highway 59, on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Reserve, South Beach Casino & Resort opened in 2005 and is owned by seven Manitoba First Nations.
“Southbeach Casino & Resort was a vision of the chairman of our board, Ferlin Barker,” explains Director of Marketing Tick Rowson, “and is something that Ferlin and some other First Nations people had been working on for many years. They’ve been able to put a lot of money back into their communities in education, infrastructure and a lot of other areas in their communities – it’s making a huge difference.”
Rowson says that Southbeach’s clientele is slightly older, and the resort has a number of bus companies who charter regular day and overnight trips from Ontario and right across the Prairies.
“The one thing that people constantly tell us that they like about our casino versus the ones in the city” notes Rowson, “is our customer service and hospitality. We have a fantastic frontline staff, free valet parking, and we open the door for our clients – little things like that make a big difference to an older demographic.”
Rowson says the resort offers two promotions that set it apart; the Green With Envy golf package, with golf available at Grand Pines, Pinawa, Mars Sand Hills and Granite Hills courses; and it’s Ocean Club points program – “you can earn points to get actual cash back into your account – as opposed to comps, which other casinos do – which is very rare in the
Electronic Games: 600Table games: 10Restaurants & lounges: Mango’s Restaurant, Blue Dolphin LoungeAccommodations: 95-room hotel
Sand Hills Casino (sandhillscasino.com)
Manitoba’s newest casino, opened in June and located 16 kms south of Carberry on Highway 5, Sand Hills Casino is owned by all Manitoba First Nations with a goal to extending the involvement of the First Nations with gaming in Manitoba.
“It’s a little bit small,” notes Rowson, “and there is no hotel space attached to the casino at this point, but it will grow. It’s a beautiful casino, with a rustic gold mining town look to it — wagon wheel light fixtures, for example. The grand opening in June was a zoo – it was nuts.”
Electronic Games: 350Table games: 7Restaurants & lounges: Dunes Restaurant, Oasis LoungeAccommodations: None