Our Featured Sponsor – Gateway Casinos

Edmonton’s downtown core is experiencing a game-changing evolution, and at the centre of it is the vibrant ICE District. Gateway Casinos is at the heart of the action with  Grand Villa Edmonton, located adjacent to Rogers Place, serving as Edmonton’s new entertainment destination.

The Backstory

Gateway Casinos, which celebrated its 25th year in business in 2017, is no stranger to downtown Edmonton. The company previously operated the Baccarat Casino, which was dismantled to make way for the $32-million Grand Villa and a new generation of casino that encompasses modern gaming attractions in addition to top-quality entertainment and dining.

“Grand Villa Edmonton provides an elegant backdrop for all of your casino excitement—the grand spaces, rich finishing and individualized customer service are incomparable,” says General Manager Michael Vickerman, who has worked with Gateway for 13 years, starting as a blackjack dealer at Cascades in Langley, BC before progressing to the GM position at Grand Villa Edmonton in July 2017.

What’s In A Name?
Grand Villa is Gateway’s most premium brand. It got its start in Burnaby, BC at Gateway’s flagship property, which was inspired by the casual sophistication of an Italian villa.

“The brand has evolved over the years as we continue to add amenities that allow all customers to enjoy a great night of entertainment,” Vickerman says. “Luxurious fit and finish with an incomparable entertainment, dining and gaming experience is what you can expect to find at a Grand Villa.”

The Offerings

Gateway’s focus since early 2013 has been on the growth and evolution of its portfolio of properties to elevate customer experience by appealing to a wider range of customers. Grand Villa Edmonton is equipped with 30,000 square feet of gaming entertainment, with more than 500 of the newest slot machines and 28 table games, in addition to Gateway’s signature food and beverage brands—MATCH Eatery & Public House and Atlas Steak + Fish.

“There is no other spot in the province where you can enjoy a night of entertainment like we offer—public and private dining, live entertainment, VIP gaming,” Vickerman says.

Each restaurant offers a distinct atmosphere that creates a memorable dining experience for guests. As Vickerman explains, MATCH Eatery & Public House is a contemporary pub that features quality sporting and entertainment experiences, such as live music and featured DJs, along with modern twists on classic favourites. In contrast, Atlas Steak + Fish is an elevated take on the iconic North American steakhouse. Its warm and casually elegant ambiance is complemented by a stylish approach to hospitality and remarkable cuisine that takes guests back to a time when dining out was a true experience.

“Atlas has become the perfect place to host private events. The main restaurant seats 160 guests, and the private dining room seats 48,” Vickerman notes. “Being next door to Rogers Place, we get a lot of celebrities who visit us before and after their shows.”

Giving Back To The Community

Gateway Casinos operates 25 properties across Canada, and the company’s $85-million investment into Grand Villa Edmonton and Starlight Casino in West Edmonton Mall has created more than 500 jobs for Edmontonians.

“This is a sizable economic contribution that is augmented by other spin-offs through local suppliers, payroll, taxes and our community giving program: GatewayGIVES,” Vickerman says. “Gateway and Grand Villa are proud members of the Edmonton community, and we believe strongly in our responsibility to give back and support the community where we work.”

Vickerman is also proud of Gateway’s numerous community partnerships, such as GatewayGIVES’ collaboration with the Edmonton chapter of Meals on Wheels. GatewayGIVES sponsors the organization’s soup program three times each month, in addition to countless volunteer opportunities throughout the year.

Gateway also supports students through its bursary program. In 2015, Gateway announced a five-year, $50,000 partnership with NAIT in Edmonton to support students pursuing career paths in culinary arts and hospitality.

But Gateway’s community involvement doesn’t stop there. The company is a partner of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Radiothon, the annual Kids Up Front Denim & Dice fundraiser and is a three-year title sponsor of the Skirts-A-Fire Festival.

Tips For Aspiring Professionals
Vickerman’s top tips for up-and-coming business professionals are to take chances and ask questions. There will always be risks in the business world—especially when it comes to getting ahead—but Vickerman believes that opportunities will continue to come your way if you maintain your drive, integrity and credibility. And remember, always keep your word—if you promise something, follow through with it. Business is all about relationships, and maintaining a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy will go a long way.

“Being with Gateway for 13 years has taught me that it’s not just about having great customer service, but about providing an exceptional customer experience to each and every customer that walks through your doors,” Vickerman says. “There is value in the details, so don’t take anything for granted. When you are building relationships with people, it’s the personal touches that stand out and leave those lasting impressions that drive brand loyalty. Smile, tell the truth, be sincere and don’t be afraid to be a little out-of-the-box.”

Another Path

If Vickerman hadn’t joined the team at Gateway, his sights would have been set on Las Vegas—that said, Grand Villa is as close as you’ll get to Vegas in Edmonton.

“I love the action,” Vickerman says. “The move-and-shake of the casino industry really appeals to me.”

Vegas or not, Vickerman loves living and working in Edmonton. Among the reasons to love the city are the friendliness of the people, the exceptional food and abundance of sunshine—even when it’s -30C outside.

“I’m in the heart of the brand-new Ice District—it’s literally still developing!” Vickerman adds. “And it doesn’t hurt that Connor McDavid plays half his games every year right next door. There are beautiful parks to walk my dogs, and I live five minutes away from anything I need to do. It’s a beautiful city, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.”

What’s Next

Gateway has significantly expanded its footprint and portfolio, with 25 properties in British Columbia, Edmonton and Ontario—up from 12 in 2015.

In addition to growth throughout Ontario, where the company now has 11 properties, Gateway’s current strategic opportunities include a $57-million rebrand and renovation of the Palace Casino at the West Edmonton Mall to be known as Starlight Casino Edmonton, a proposed $70-million local entertainment destination in Delta, BC, renovations and rebranding at Chances Campbell River and Chances Courtenay, and the first Gateway redevelopment in Point Edward, ON, to be rebranded Starlight Casino Point Edward.


White Starline – An EOCC Themed Event on July 26

The Titanic is undoubtedly one of the most famous cruise ships in history, as much for its gargantuan size as its tragic fate. The infamous ship was constructed between 1909 and 1912 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. Its maiden voyage left Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 and was headed to New York City when it struck a 100-foot iceberg in the early-morning hours of April 15, 1912 and sunk. The wreckage was found at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean in 1985.

The Titanic’s grandeur has been immortalized through historical records, artifacts and pop culture, and it will be brought to life on July 26, 2018 at Halley’s Club for a celebration filled with dancing, live music from the Million Dollar Dreamers and live paintings by artist Katie Cunningham.

In preparation for the event, we’ve gathered some interesting facts to help you brush up on your Titanic trivia.

Legendary Proportions

The Titanic cost more than $7 million to build, and it measured 269 metres (882 feet) in length and stood 53.3 metres (175 feet) tall. The ship burned more than 800 tons of coal per day—all of which hand-shovelled by 167 men—and required 885 crew members to keep everything running smoothly. There were approximately 1,317 passengers on board, and 705 people survived the wreck.

Opulence of the Era

The interior of the Titanic was inspired by The Ritz hotel in London, and the iconic Grand Staircase—which spanned seven of the ship’s 10 decks—was equipped with luxurious oak panelling, bronze cherubs and paintings. Amenities on board the Titanic included a gym, pool, Turkish bath, a dog kennel, a squash court and its own newspaper titled the Atlantic Daily Bulletin. The musicians on board the ship were also expected to know all 352 tunes in the song book provided to first-class passengers—just in case there were any requests.

First-class passengers had no shortage of supplies to imbibe in. It’s estimated that the Titanic carried 20,000 bottles of beer, 1,500 bottles of wine and 8,000 cigars. The Titanic’s final dinner consisted of 10 decadent courses.

Notable Passengers

The Titanic carried some of the wealthiest people in the world, the richest of whom was John Jacob Astor IV. He was worth a whopping $90 million at the time, which translates to approximately $2 billion today. Astor did not survive the voyage, but his wife, Madeleine, did. She was pregnant while aboard the Titanic and gave birth four months later.

Other storied passengers include Olympic silver medallist Cosmo Duff-Gordon; Benjamin Guggenheim, brother of Soloman Guggenheim, namesake of the famed museum in New York; Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes; Margaret Brown, also known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown; and Millvina Dean, the youngest survivor (she was two months old), who died at age 97 in 2009. It’s also said that chocolate mogul Milton S. Hershey was meant to be on board, but he had to rearrange his travel plans to New York to accommodate a business matter.

Cinematic Legacy

Who could forget James Cameron’s record-breaking cinematic adaptation of the Titanic’s story? The 1997 film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, had a $20 million-dollar budget and grossed $2.187 billion at the box office. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won 11, including the coveted Best Picture accolade, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Song for “My Heart Will Go On.”

click here to get your tickets!

Celebrating Art and the Importance of Youth Mentorship at Latitude 53

Latitude 53 has been home to local artists and community events since 1973, providing an inviting space for connection and creativity. Tucked away between Grant MacEwan University and bustling Jasper Avenue, we were all still feeling the love from Valentine’s Day as a full room of influencers, artists and innovators came together to learn more about Big Brothers and Sisters on February 15. As part of the ongoing EOCC Community events, people from all segments of Edmonton’s thriving culture were in attendance, from business owners and artists to investors and entrepreneurs. Kelly Xiao of Edmonton’s chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters was there to speak about the work they do as well as volunteer opportunities.

Big Brothers and Sisters works with volunteers in communities all over the world to connect with youth and inspire the next generation of leaders in a safe and empowering way. BBBS began in Edmonton in 2011 and continues to provide various volunteer roles working with youth. We learned kids who take part in BBBS are 80% more likely to graduate, have increased confidence, higher grades and class attendance. As a volunteer, the choice is yours to work one on one with a child, volunteer in groups or work behind the scenes to support fundraisers, help with office work and more.

As we perused the fine selection of art from local talents like Katie Cunningham, Sofia Jogola, Omar the Artist, Chad Raymo and Jolene, the connection between these artists and the cause was palpable. Encouraging children to follow their passions, whether that is art or otherwise, is such a valuable way to create a more vibrant, inclusive and safe world for us all. The colourful and thought-provoking pieces served as a reminder of potential. Each work of art began as a blank canvas and blossomed into something fully formed and beautiful. Working with youth in a healthy and nurturing environment is key to inspire the confidence they need to become whatever they choose to be.

While the DJ spun tunes in the background, we networked, discussed art and grew our sense of community and why it’s always important to lift each other up, especially our younger community members.

Our Community Impact events are always exploring new organizations who make powerful impacts in Edmonton and the world. If you want to keep up to speed with these fun and inspiring events, subscribe here.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer with the Edmonton chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, apply here.

Edmonton Business Networkers Huddle Together To Discuss Homelessness Over Beer

The ambiance was glowing and it was warm inside the lovely BRU Coffee + Beer House on Edmonton’s lively Jasper Avenue. Despite the fact that it was nearly -30°, dozens of people braved the cold outside to join us, excited about the night and our event. Bissell Centre’s CEO Gary St. Amand was the keynote speaker, and he delivered an impassioned speech about what his organization has done for the community, and what we can do to help our communities at an individual level. He discussed the fact that his team have reduced homelessness in Edmonton by 40% in the last decade — which is an extraordinary feat — yet spoke of it with a kind of wistful modesty; he did not even pause to celebrate in that glory, but instead was clearly  preoccupied and deeply driven by all that is left to accomplish.

While obviously the main goal of the night was to provide much-needed support for this crucial Edmonton institution, it also provided a safe space to facilitate a thoughtful conversation. When it came to the questions section following Mr. Amand’s speech, people asked thought-provoking questions, including: “What can we do on a personal level to help?”, “How will the soon-to-be legal marijuana industry affect crime and people currently earning a less than legitimate income?”, and “What percentage of the people you intervene to keep housed are children?”.

One of the most memorable takeaways from the dialogue was the revelation that the strain of homelessness to our social systems cost a lot more than emergency housing does. He discussed a very successful program they run, which he referred to as “eviction prevention”, and revealed that the average eviction costs the property owner $2,500.00, more than the average struggling tenant owes in arrears (a property manager who happened to be at the event attested to the fact). Bissell Centre aims to help people who are going through a rough patch by assisting them in repaying past-due rent amounts, which saves property owners money, and often costs taxpayers less than emergency housing or other types of social services might. You can see why this program is clearly very impactful.

In recent years, the Albertan city of Medicine Hat has made headlines for eradicating homelessness in their city using some — though controversial — clearly effective means. Like socialists have been theorizing for many years, Mayor Ted Clugston said that he and his colleagues found that paying for emergency housing for vulnerable populations directly translated to declining costs! Even The New York Times wrote about our modest little Medicine Hat as a champion of impactful policy-making.

But what is controversial about this in our conservative, capitalist community is that people don’t often understand that the concept of “you have to spend money to make money” is also true in effective governance, particularly when it comes to a housing crisis. Practice empathy: imagine trying to get (and hold) a job when a warm meal, a regular shower, and a good night’s sleep are unattainable luxuries. When you don’t have a computer to apply for jobs or print a résumé. When you don’t have access to a much-needed medication or service. Not to mention the fact that joblessness, debt, and overdue rent are all ‘snowballing’ issues. What society underestimates is the innate desire a majority of these people have to return to being productive, purposeful, tax-paying citizens. This is one of the insanely rare and beautiful moments in life where doing the right thing is also doing the fiscally responsible thing.

What does this mean to you?

If you think taxes are too high, are spent ineffectively, and feel sick to your stomach about all the suffering homeless people in our otherwise beautiful city, vote for lawmakers who support similar inclusive policies on housing the people who need it most.

If you are interested in attending networking events for a good cause, please subscribe here.

What can you do to really make a difference?

Put your money (or time) where your mouth is!
Have a corporate charity budget to spend, or even a little extra spending money to help someone in need? You can donate to Bissell Centre quite easily by clicking here!

Want to impact your community with your time? We host tons of amazing, fun, charitable events that involve networking with like-minded people and helping make a difference. If you’re interested in getting involved and having a great time, contact us here!

For more information about homelessness and its correlation with criminality, please read this in-depth article: “Deterring and Punishing is Actually Accelerating and Harming: Modern Society & Current Youth Justice Systems as Accelerants of Mental Illness, Homelessness, and Criminality”.

A Network of Parallel Principles

Community is more than just a buzzword used to give shape to countless sub-genres of society. It’s about working together to create something bigger than ourselves. Something that becomes tangibly rewarding for several members of the world around us. It’s anything but selfish. Within the sub-genres mentioned earlier, the initial goal of gathering may not be selfless, but when groups of people come together with a common interest, change begins to affect society as a whole. Volunteering to raise money for groups who offer support services to marginalized groups within our greater communities, participating in the creation of art and music to add substance and beauty to the world, or simply supporting local businesses with honourable morals. There are many ways to participate in generating a sense of healthy community.


The natural expansion of different branches of community lends itself to the greater benefit of a thriving society. Whether the community is based within a social media platform, professional organization or a fitness community, the goal is always to connect with each other. Expressing shared values and interests validates the human condition, even if the validation comes through something extremely simple, like taking care of one’s health. It’s not news that having a work out buddy makes it easier to commit to a fitness routine. Those that lift together, stay together.


As we validate our own triumphs and challenges by connecting with others, we actually set ourselves up for success in the long term. Studies have shown those with active social lives and support systems in place generally live longer than those without. The natural instinct to connect with others is a built in mechanism to support our mental, physical and emotional health!


While the concept of community seems to be ever evolving to include more and more sub-genres, some health related and some not, there are always constants when it comes to the growth and establishment of whatever commonality is shared among us. Reaching out to others, whether at a networking event, on Twitter or connecting with a volunteer organization is the key to that growth. To establish community we need to be willing to put ourselves out there in an honest way so others may feel inspired to do the same.


A thriving society is one where we all benefit from the creation of opportunities. This happens when we allow ourselves as individuals to be innovative. Communities thrive on the innovation of individuals who dare to connect and share their discoveries with those around them. What can we teach each other? How can we lift each other up to create bigger and better things to impact the planet in a positive way? Once we begin to ask ourselves these kind of questions, opportunities present themselves so we can make the decision to be vulnerable for each other. To empower each other, our local networks and beyond. When we start to liberate ourselves for the very human sake of connection and sanity, we ultimately contribute to the global community. We all rise.

Page 2 of 1012345...10...Last »