Casino is hometown man's pride and joy
Company spares almost no expense in $180 million high-end gaming and hotel project
Alfie Lau, Langley Advance
Published: Saturday, November 01, 2008
Dave Gadhia is the first person to admit that the Grand Villa Casino is his baby.
The longtime Burnaby resident and chief executive officer of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment wanted his company's latest showcase casino to be something he would be proud to show to his friends, colleagues and old acquaintances.
The casino, on the site of the former Sheraton Hotel, will open to the public at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5.
"We always try to make our properties the best, but this is my hometown community," said Gadhia. "I wanted the place to be even more special because this is where I call home."
The Burnaby NOW took a recent preview tour of the casino just off Highway 1, and it appears Gadhia and staff have succeeded in every possible way.
The entire facility wouldn't feel out of place on the Las Vegas Strip, and Gateway has spared no expense in making sure that the best technology and most up-to-date games are on offer.
When Gadhia sat down with the NOW to talk about one of his proudest achievements, he couldn't contain his excitement.
"I've lived in Burnaby since I was 10 years old, and I'm extremely proud of my roots," said the chartered accountant, who has been with Gateway for 16 years. "I take an enormous sense of pride in this iconic property because I wanted to restore it to its former glory."
The property, which once featured a hotel, known at various times as the Sheraton, Villa or Radisson Hotel, had fallen into disrepair. But after Gateway became involved, Gadhia wanted to do everything he could to make sure it was a showcase casino, not just for Burnaby, but the entire Lower Mainland.
"Our research showed that we needed to have a fully integrated property," said Gadhia. "That meant having a great gaming facility, great amenities such as restaurants and lounges, and a great hotel partner like Delta, who I believe operate the best premium business hotels in Canada."
The hotel is still under construction, but walk through the casino and you'll be amazed at how wide the walkways are and how each area has a distinctive feel to it.
For example, the Cypress room features high-stakes mini baccarat, a private cash cage and a separate lounge area and bar.
Walk over to the Lions Room and, while the area is raised from the regular floor level, people walking by can still see inside.
Even the slot machines are a wonder to behold, as you can play everything from a penny slot all the way up to the $20 slot machines - yes, that's $20 per pull or button push.
And while smokers seem to have no place to light up any more, the Grand Villa features an outdoor smoking patio that offers stunning views of the North Shore mountains.
It's no coincidence that the Grand Villa is so inclusive.
"We wanted to bring a level of sophistication, a high-quality product with high-quality service to this area," said Gadhia. "I want everybody who comes here to feel the grandeur, elegance and quality of what we're trying to create."
Gateway spared no expense on the interior, but they also did more than just paint the exterior.
"We're right on (Highway 1), so a lot of people will see the outside," said Lui Garcea, Gateway's manager of marketing and promotions. "We wanted to have big open windows for people to see out and, for people driving by, to get a taste of what we were doing in here."
In addition, the old balcony railings have been fully refinished, on Gadhia's insistence.
"We wanted to go the extra step, and something like the balcony railings, we wanted to do it right."
Gadhia hesitates slightly when asked what he thinks of the current global economic crisis and what that means for the gaming industry.
"In good times and bad times, people still set aside dollars for entertainment," he said. "In good times, people come to a casino to celebrate. In not-so-good times, people need an escape. ... I'm confident that, with the variety of options and amenities here, we will have something for every type of customer."
Gadhia by law cannot gamble in any B.C. casino because of his position. He admits to playing craps on his annual trip to Las Vegas and said he loves spending time in the Centro Bar and the EBO restaurant because there is such a relaxed feel there.
And because Gadhia travelled the world to see what features he wanted to incorporate into the Grand Villa, people only need look at the ceiling that changes colour to see something truly unique.
He got the idea from a European football stadium that featured translucent cloth wrapped on the outside. Using LED lights, the cloth changes colour depending on what lights are used.
At the Grand Villa, that same technology is in place as one minute the ceiling is a brilliant tinge of red and the next it becomes a light shade of blue.
"It took us longer than we expected to open," Gadhia admitted, "but we used that time to refine everything we wanted. We used our time to make sure that everything was top quality and unique. ... We believe we have something to offer everybody, and we're inviting the people of Burnaby to come and experience sophistication and grandeur in their own backyard."
The Grand Villa Casino is located at 4331 Dominion St. A private VIP party, highlighted by a speech from Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, will precede the public opening on Nov. 5. The public can start gambling at 8 p.m. on Nov. 5, with the old casino across the street closing for good at 3 a.m. on Nov. 6.