Hard (financial) start for Hard Rock

Great Canadian Casinos
Great Canadian Casinos' Chuck Keeling.
— image credit: janis WARREN/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

The first full quarter for the rebranded Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam didn't pull in as big a jackpot as anticipated for the city, which gets a 10% cut in net profits from the gaming venue.

Yesterday, the city received a $1.5-million payment for the period of Jan. 1 to March 31 — a drop of more than $345,000 from the first quarter of 2013, when the gaming facility was still known as Boulevard Casino.

The owners, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., rebranded the United Boulevard business on Dec. 20, 2013, hoping the Hard Rock Casino name would bring in more — and younger — clientele.

According to the company's first-quarter results, which were revealed to investors on Wednesday, Great Canadian saw record revenues of $103.8 million, largely due to the high "table drop" (gross revenues) at River Rock Casino in Richmond and its Great American Casinos properties.

But the company took a hit financially with its $400,000 marketing campaign plus another $200,000 in severances with the changeover at Hard Rock in Coquitlam.

"The facelift of the property to transform it into Hard Rock was as much about a culture change as it was about changing the bricks and mortar of the facility," said Chuck Keeling, GCGC's vice-president of stakeholder relations and responsible gaming.

Overall, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver had a successful opening and "we are very, very pleased with the results so far," Keeling said, pointing to the $51.3-million table drop, a $13.4-million jump versus the 2013 first quarter, and the highest quarter table drop recorded on the property since the third quarter of 2009.

Still, its "hold" (net revenues) was much lower than average — 6.8% less — which translated to a decrease in table game revenues.

"Of course, that skews the numbers in terms of what we retain as operators, what goes back to the province and what goes to the city," Keeling told The Tri-City News. "That was a significant aberration."

Food and beverage numbers aren't reflected in the cash to the city, however, and they were 35% higher under the Hard Rock brand compared with the first quarter of 2013 as Boulevard Casino.

As for construction of the casino hotel, for which GCGC has already received city permits, Keeling said it remains on hold.

"It's still early days," he said. "We're just a quarter in but we're very pleased with the initial acceptance and the momentum that's been generated."

David Munro, the city of Coquitlam's economic development manager, said he would like to see a hotel and conference centre at Hard Rock to draw more out-of-town visitors.

Yesterday, city managers met to talk about the new Coquitlam tourism strategy and specifically about having more signs to get tourists to their destination.

"Since the Hard Rock rebrand, more people are coming out to see the shows," Munro said, adding, "I think it's generated some positive feedback and it will only continue to grow."


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