It's not just about gambling

Drenched in Victorian opulence, Grand Casino is no run-of-the-mill gambling spot. It’s located in a Heritage One status building in the centre of the city, in what was once a grand ballroom for the original Grand Hotel, built in 1883 by Italian architect Louis Boldini.


Found on the first floor of the Southern Cross hotel building, the casino is a hub for the people of Dunedin – an atmosphere-drenched locale in which to eat, drink and be merry in the heart of the city.


The casino also prides itself on being a responsible host, active in the good work it does in the community and the way in which it deals with issues like problem gambling.


Dominique Dowding, CEO of the Grand Casino, is passionate about the role the casino plays in the city. When she took over, she led the casino in a drive to become more involved in the community.


Grand Casino gives back to Dunedin in a wide range of quantifiable ways – secure employment, helping to drive the local economy, providing charities with much-needed funding and staging responsible entertainment. Supporting and promoting local businesses is another key focus for Grand Casino. Dowding takes this role seriously, sitting on the board of Business South, a business advocacy organisation operating across Otago and Southland.


Grand Casino staff are committed to their corporate responsibilities and work to remedy any instances of problem gambling that arise on the premises. “To us, host responsibility is omnipotent. We work alongside the Problem Gambling Foundation and the Salvation Army to ensure we provide support for anyone who may be needing it,” Dowding explains.


Alongside this, the organisation builds relationships with family members of regular patrons who are welcome at any time to call the casino and make them aware of any concerns they may have with their loved ones.


It’s not just problem gambling Grand Casino takes seriously. They are also a major supporter of charities in the local community, often giving back to smaller ventures that may otherwise be overlooked.


These include Foster Hope, an organisation that provides foster children with much-needed personal items (which are gifted in a backpack) to help them navigate their new placements. I Am Hope is another funded charity – a suicide awareness programme, founded by Mike King.


“We are also key supporters of Blue September, a charity focused on prostate cancer awareness and early detection,” Dowding shares. “These charities are so important to us and help us give back to the community in a very real way. We're very committed and our investments are authentic – we’re not just there to write a cheque. We want to make a real difference to the region.”


Dowding says there is a perception that casinos aren’t well run; there’s a “wild west” reputation around gambling organisations that’s often hard to shift. But she says casinos in New Zealand are highly regulated and extremely pro-active when it comes to problematic behaviour from patrons.


Dowding says Grand Casino is a boutique casino and a safe, fun spot to spend an evening: “Most of our customers view us as an entertainment venue – and only spend what they would if they went out for dinner or to the movies.”


“We are really proud of that; we offer great entertainment and work hard to ensure everyone who comes here has a wonderful, safe experience.”


Its beautifully preserved interior design gives patrons a glimpse of an elegant time gone by – amidst a modern wish to make the casino Dunedin’s number one entertainment spot.