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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.