Great Canadian Gaming Starts Strong in 2019

The last several months have put Great Canadian Gaming in the news on many fronts.

On the positive side, the company ended 2018 with tremendous growth and started 2019 in the same vein. Furthermore, substantial deals have shown the company to be making many solid strategic moves.

On the negative side, it has been at the center of damaging news reports. These stem from a former employee blowing the whistle on Great Canadian’s alleged complicity with money laundering schemes in past decades.

However, from the standpoint of the company’s public financials, sales, and deals, Great Canadian started 2019 on mostly positive notes.

What is Great Canadian?

Many people are familiar with casino names but not the company behind them. There are Chances Casinos in British Columbia, Elements Casinos in Ontario, BC properties like the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver and River Rock Casino, and Casino Nova Scotia properties.

Founded in 1982, Great Canadian Casino Company started as a small operation in Vancouver and eventually became Great Canadian Gaming Company in 1997. The acquisitions then began in Ontario and Nova Scotia, even expanding into the United States with several Great American Casino projects.

As of 2019, the company operates more than two dozen gaming, entertainment, and hospitality facilities, mostly in Canada. In them, there are tens of thousands of slot machines, hundreds of table games, dozens of restaurants, and approximately 500 hotel rooms. More than 9,000 employees work to bring it all together.

2018 Upswing Continues in 2019

The final numbers from the 2018 year were solid. Revenue from the full year totaled $1.221 million, which was up 99% from the previous year. EBITDA was also up 113% for the year.

Shares of company stock increased $2.49 per common share for the full year, which was up 80%.

Great Canadian reported its first quarter 2019 financials on May 6, complete with $312.1 million in revenue that exhibited a 35% increase year-on-year. And shareholders’ net earnings were $32.6 million, or $0.55 per common share.

Even with the good news and progress, CEO Rod Baker noted; “Our first quarter in 2019 experienced challenges from the extreme weather conditions, which negatively impacted guest visitation at our Ontario gaming facilities.”

Buying and Selling

There were some big moves for Great Canadian in the first few months of 2019. These started with the January opening of the Great Blue Heron Casino’s building addition. Later, Elements Casinos Mohawk and Grand River both added hundreds of slots to their casino floors.

In April, Great Canadian finalised agreements with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the owners of the Ajax Downs racetrack to continue operating the casino beyond the development and anticipated opening of the casino project in Pickering.

Then, it was time to offload some property. In late April, Great Canadian sold its shares of Great American Gaming Corporation to Maverick Gaming for $56 million in an all-cash transaction. The purpose was to explore more opportunities with greater shareholder value, and focus on core growth markets.

The deal included casino properties in the state of Washington, which means the final sale is pending approval from the Washington State Gambling Commission. The closing of the deal is expected during the third quarter of 2019.

Great Canadian Promotions and Appointments

There has been some shuffling of management within the company this year as well.

In March, Terrence Doyle was promoted to President of Strategic Growth and Chief Compliance Officer. This subsequently makes him responsible for current and future growth initiatives, compliance, and opportunities that will enhance the Great Canadian framework. Doyle had been serving as the company’s COO, but the new position incorporates a much broader realm of oversight.

John Russo had served as the Vice President of Legal Ontario but was promoted to Corporate Secretary, in addition to his other duties as General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer.

Just this week, the new Board of Directors was chosen in this order of votes:

  • Rod Baker
  • Karen Keilty
  • Christopher Hart
  • Thomas Gaffney
  • Peter Meredith
  • Larry Campbell
  • Mark Davis

The Audit Committee will consist of Keilty as Chair, Hart and Meredith. The Corporate Governance Committee will see Davis as Chair, alongside Campbell, Hart, and Keilty. Gaffney will chair the Compensation Committee with Campbell and Meredith. And Campbell will chair the Corporate Compliance and Security Committee with Campbell as Chair, David, Gaffney, and Keilty.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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