New Great Canadian CEO Tony Rodio Sees Huge Opportunity in Ontario

The new CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, Tony Rodio, has said the company’s acquisition by funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management can help the operator capitalize on the size of the opportunity available in Canada and particularly Ontario.
Great Canadian, which operates 25 locations across Canada, appointed former Caesars Entertainment CEO Rodio as its new leader following the completion of its takeover by Apollo this week.
Rodio told BNN Bloomberg that the acquisition means a lot for the Toronto-headquartered company, given their ability and desire to grow the business.
“We have currently two large projects going on that Apollo inherited, at Pickering and Woodbine, where we’re deploying hundreds of millions of dollars each and expanding our non-gaming amenities,” Rodio said. “I look at those projects and how much value they’re going to add, and the ability to look at our other destinations to see where we can also deploy capital, and I think having Apollo behind us in that regard is a huge, huge benefit.”
Rodio stressed the opportunity, as Great Canadian and Apollo see it, is “first and foremost” in Ontario as the privatization of the gaming industry in the province continues and the iGaming and sports betting markets continue to open up.

The CEO added a priority for the company is to diversify the gaming experience at Great Canadian’s establishments and create more awareness.

“My sense is that there’s not a lot of brand equity or awareness of Great Canadian and some of our properties,” Rodio added. “I think with the two assets we’re dramatically improving and the ability to create more awareness and media attention of our offerings, we have a ton of opportunity to increase our penetration in Ontario and the GTA.”

Growing pains amid reopening

As CEO of Caesars from 2019 until the company’s takeover by Eldorado in 2020, Rodio has witnessed firsthand some of the pains of reopening the gaming industry in the U.S. He says Canada is following a similar path in recent months and notes that while Great Canadian has mitigated the pains of the process well, there have been undeniable struggles.

“We’re operating at 50 per cent capacity in most instances, but our business values are only off 10 or 12 per cent in most cases. So given the limited capacity at which we’re operating, it’s actually been a pretty quick rebound,” Rodio continued. “My biggest supply chain concern is continuing to get the construction materials we need for our ongoing projects to get them fully open on time. But from a day-to-day standpoint, because we’re operating a limited capacity, there hasn’t been too great of an impact.”

A big concern for many operators has been staffing issues after long stretches of shutdown. Rodio acknowledged that Great Canadian have seen “a hint” of those issues and that the company has some concern as it looks to reopen food and beverage establishments, hotels, and other hospitality amenities. “That’s where the pain points will be.”

Finally, Rodio stressed that, like in his role at Caesars, his tenure will see a firm focus on responsible gaming and player protection as Canada’s industry continues to evolve.

“Caesars was at the forefront of responsible gaming going back a number of years – it’s been something they have focused on over the last 25, 30 years,” he concluded. “I can tell you that from my chair at the top in this company, that will be something that we will focus on continuously. I am confident that the company has a lot of those policies and things in place to help customers. It will be a critical initiative for us moving forward.”

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