Those early years in the 80s saw Ross physically assisting with the build and design of gaming tables, as well as promoting various 'Casino Monte Carlo Nights' throughout the Greater Vancouver Regional District.
In the Winter of 1986, Ross and the Great Canadian team opened the first permanent casino at the Holiday Inn on West Broadway in Vancouver. The facility offered blackjack, roulette, sicbo, and a coffee bar for guests; and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charitable groups in BC. In the fall of 1997, it was also Ross who championed the introduction of slot gaming at his Great Canadian Casinos Surrey location, making it the first casino in BC to offer electronic gaming in partnership with the BCLC. Thanks to this and other important initiatives, BCLC's casino revenues have since grown from $40.7 million in fiscal 1997/98 to $1.6 billion in fiscal 2010/11. Ross always believed in the little guy, and was known to say, “We know gaming and entertainment - let others assist us with the ancillary items.” Ross would meet with almost anyone who had an idea or invention. He knew how valuable it was to think outside the box, and gave so many people so many opportunities to make their mark in this world.
A driving force behind Ross's success was his affinity for seeking out new and exciting ideas that would improve his business. In fact, it was Ross who first to introduced the roulette chip machines now found standard around the world. It was also Ross who approved the Cirque du Soleil set-up in the Great Canadian show theatres in Richmond and Coquitlam, BC, allowing the company to offer clients a multifaceted facility that could handle conventions by day, and shows and events at night.
Ross always thought of what his guests would want and ensured that Great Canadian would always try to over deliver. He understood the importance of customer service and took his company from operating limited facilities to the pride of Western Canada: the River Rock Casino Resort. When other companies and facilities were refusing mass transit (Canada Line) stations on their respective properties, it was Ross who not only agreed to one, but wanted it built in a public private partnership--a whole station with parkade, star walk, and all- -because he knew years in advance the significance the line would have on the company's flagship facility.
Ross loved to “walk the line” and interact with his everyone on his team from the front line crew to his executives. He always had time to talk and listen to ideas and suggestions that could make the company and industry better. He was incredibly proud of his properties and his staff. He loved to hold meetings and appointments on property to showcase his jewel, River Rock, and loved to support events and fundraisers at the Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam, as well as at his properties in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Washington State. He was equally proud of the company’s racing properties and he spent his own money and time becoming a horse owner, breeder, and supporter of the Sport of Kings.
Ross’s many achievements include receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Gaming Industry Award, presented to him at the 1999 Canadian Gaming Summit in Windsor, Ontario. In 2007, Ross was also honoured with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Hospitality and Tourism–Pacific Region) for his achievements in the British Columbia hospitality industry. In 2010, Ross was again honoured by the C.H.I.L.D. Foundation with the prestigious Doorman of the Year Award for his unsurpassed service to countless BC charitable organizations.
Without question, Ross was a great philanthropist. He promoted and helped introduce the charity gaming model in BC, and personally gave countless dollars to education, the arts, and health care. He was a gentle giant of a man; one who placed everyone ahead of himself. His passion for philanthropy assisted thousands of organizations and helped raise billions of dollars to make this province and our country so great. Ross believed that service to our community and province was truly a noble undertaking.
Outside of his work, Ross loved to travel and take his friends and family around the world to explore to share his passion for discovery and adventure. He will be greatly missed by his parents, Roy and Dora McLeod; his wife Sheila; sons Malcolm and William; his step-children Stuart, Rachel, and Trevor and his wife Julie and their two grandchildren.
The Canadian Gaming Industry may have lost a giant founder and leader, but it has also gained so much more by having Ross J. McLeod as one of its pioneers who has strengthened our industry from coast to coast.
Those who knew Ross will forever be touched by him.
Written by Howard Blank, Vice President, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation