It sounds odd, but getting to a Montreal casino on a Satruday evening may not be such a brilliant idea, even for a hardcore gambler such as myself. I have nothing against the casino itself. It’s a gorgeous building, located on a man-made island Notre-Dame. It consists of several floors offering pretty much what any other casino in Vegas or Atlantic City has to offer, with a trifle of European charm to it. During my last visit to the casino, I felt like I went back in time, and was in the midst 70’s. The building itself is actually a French pavilion, which was part of the Expo 67 world fair. However, its location seems to be its biggest drawback. And here is why.
I was visiting Canada on a few day trip, and came to Montreal together with a couple from Kingston. It was late fall, and we just arrived in the city. Heavy clouds, gusty winds and yellow-red maple trees were pretty much the atmosphere of the season. Having nothing better to do on a gloomy day like that, we’ve decided to pay a visit to a local casino.
Since, this is the only official casino in the city, it’s advertised near every possible tourist attraction and you will see plenty of signs that will point you the right direction whether you are coming from the airport or downtown. The casino is located off the main island, but is only a mile away from the old port and downtown area. You can actually see it from there very well, and we thought getting there would be a matter of 15 minutes.
There was no traffic in downtown area at this time, and it took us less than 10 minutes to get to the small, narrow, two-lane bridge that connects the two islands and leads to the casino. As we were about to enter the island, right near the entrance to the bridge, we encountered a colossal traffic jam, with cars merging into the only available lane. (as the other is reserve red for shuttle buses and taxis) It seemed as if Montrealers suddenly switched their hobbies, and decided play with lady Fortune on Halloween.
So, it took us about 15 minutes to cross the bridge, which is really not that long and it would not take more than half a minute to cross it, if there was no traffic. Once we reached the end, and entered the island we saw a peculiar picture; Two parking attendants, running in frenzy were signaling everyone to turn around and go back. As we were getting closer to them, suddenly they opened a barricade and allowed two cars to go in, and then closed it again.
As our car finally reached the block post, I rolled out the window and asked what’s going on, why is everyone told to leave and only few V.I.P’s are allowed. Well, it turned out to be a rather simple situation. There was no space available in the parking of the casino, and the parking attendant was receiving orders to send everyone back, unless one or two spaces become available, and that’s when the lucky ones could get in.
Montreal casino is visited by a lot of people. It’s the only legalized casino (owned by the government) in the city. In fact, there are three major casinos in the province of Quebec: Casino de Montreal, Casino de Charlevoix and Casino de Lac-Leamy. The demand seems to outgrow the supply here. It takes about 15 minutes to get to any point in the Downtown area of Montreal. There are not many people on the streets in month of October, even on Saturdays (if you compare with cities like New York, Toronto or Las Vegas) but casino of Montreal is the exception. If you are lucky enough to get the parking space underground, or if you take the shuttle bus, you may still find yourself standing in line to play slots! If you don’t believe me try the 25c slot machines on Saturday evening.
After about one hour, we were back on the main island. As an alternative, we could leave our car and wait for the shuttle bus. At that moment, a drizzle turned to a pouring rain and a bunch of hungry gamblers waiting for the shuttle bus outside, ran to hide inside the bus stop booth. I don’t consider myself superstitious, but I decided to take it as a bad omen and we drove back to our hotel, from which we observed a magnificent view of an old town and a brightly lit Montreal casino.