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The Ontario casino readying to open in December a few blocks from the Rainbow Bridge will shower gamblers with a warm welcome and friendly service to make up for any parking problems or other shortcomings.

Representatives of Casino Niagara presented this picture Thursday at a seminar attended by 150 tourism representatives in the Convention Center's Greek Theater.

The casino in the former Maple Leaf Village mall will welcome an estimated 16,000 visitors a day with a welcome "as friendly as possible, not an anonymous reception" and "make the experience as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible," said Ugo Gagliardi, marketing director for Casino Niagara. "Customer service is paramount" in the marketing strategy, he said.

The two problems facing the casino: only 2,100 on-site parking spaces and lack of some "traditional amenities" such as nightclubs and theaters available on casino premises in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Gagliardi said.

Shuttle buses will bring visitors from satellite parking areas, and no reservations for motorcoach groups will be accepted during the casino's first 60 days "to work out the bugs" and avoid overcrowding, said Daniel Shumny, a consultant to Casino Niagara.

The operators are trying to dispel the image of a temporary or interim casino, Gagliardi said. The casino at the Maple Leaf Village site will have cafes, a restaurant, food court, and 11 retail shops, but is to be replaced within three to six years by a casino at another site yet to be decided in Niagara Falls, Ont.

The casino will spend $5.8 million in advertising in the coming year and "will emphasize this is the casino," but "word of mouth" will be the most important marketing tool, Shumny said.

"Look at our media buys and tag on," Shumny advised tourism operators on the American side.

He gave a detailed profile of the customers the casino is looking for.

Casino gamblers are by and large over 35, often over 55, with $70,000 in annual household income, equally divided between men and women.

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