Plans have been in the works for the last two years, according to the casino's general manager Kevin Taylor who made the announcement on Tuesday.
He added the recent push by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s to revitalize this province's gaming facilities - which could lead to a new casino in Ottawa - was merely a coincidence.
"It's in the news, we see it," Mr. Taylor said of the OLG's plan. "But the competition is there tomorrow, today, the day after. We need to cope with it."
He put up a map depicting the many casinos in Canada and the northeastern United States that already compete with Lac-Leamy, including the Rideau Carleton Raceway in south Ottawa. The growing popularity of online gaming is also cutting into casino profits, noted Mr. Taylor.
The $47.4-million project is scheduled to begin in October and be completed by January 2015.
Renovations will take place in four phases and will include demolition of the interior fountains, Bar 777 and the panoramic staircase; construction of a central hub to connect the gaming floor to the upstairs restaurant; renovation of the high roller lounge; and finally, updating the main entrance and constructing a multimedia ribbon.
The ribbon will be an enormous metal grill, somewhat resembling chain-link fencing, that will hang from the ceiling and encircle the casino. Multimedia messages can be projected onto the ribbon, allowing the casino to use colours and text to create ambiance and distinct environments. A jackpot winner on one end of the casino, for example, could instantly be announced on the opposite end of the facility via a projected message on the ribbon.
A similar multimedia structure will be built within the central hub - a two-storey bar including a nightclub - that will be covered in a metallic structure that looks somewhat like fish scales, and is similar in dome-like shape and aesthetic to the panes covering the Ottawa Convention Centre. Messages can also be projected onto the dome that will encircle the hub.
Mr. Taylor compared the technology to the Power Ring built at Scotiabank Place; a circle of LED video screens surrounding the arena that displays advertising as well as messages to spur excitement from the crowd.
"We're trying to do the same thing, but around the experience of gaming," said Mr. Taylor.
Lac-Leamy's last major renovation project took place in 2001. A hotel, conference centre and theatre were added to the facility in a project that cost $210 million.
Catherine Schellenberg, the casino's chief of communications and public relations, said that the industry standard is to update gaming systems every decade. Lac-Leamy, open for 15 years now, is slightly behind that trend, she said, and is in need of modernization.
The architectural trend of the day was to build large, open spaces. Today, customers prefer closed-in, more intimate settings. Visitors are also younger than they used to be, and the casino needs to address its changing demographic, Ms. Schellenberg said.
Even if a new casino is built in Ottawa, Lac-Leamy's 15-year head start and its focus on customer service will keep people coming through its doors, she said.
"We can't lower our prices, we're not a big box store," she said. "We can't make people win more, we'd like to but that's just luck of the draw, so customer service is where we really put our focus."
Casiloc, a subsidiary of Loto-Quebec, will be responsible for managing the project. The project team also includes:
- Verreault Construction Inc. - Contractor
- Pelland Leblanc architectes, Fortin Corriveau Salvail Architecture + Design - Architecture
- Bouthillette Parizeau, Pageau Morel et associés - Mechanical and electrical engineering
- Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Ltée - Structural and civil engineering
Casino du Lac-Leamy sees an average of three million visitors annually and employs almost 1,600 people. In 2010-2011, the casino's revenues totalled $260.5 million, a figure that has been declining for the past three years, according to financial documents posted by Loto-Quebec. In 2008-2009, revenues totalled $267 million; the following year it was down to $265.8 million before decreasing by two per cent in 2010-2011.
After construction, the casino expects to become profitable again in five years or less, Ms. Schellenberg said. The casino will remain open throughout all renovations.