When Helen MacMillan joined the Rideau Carleton Casino, Future Hard Rock in November 2019, she was joining a bustling and evolving organization with a solid team of more than 700 employees all excited to break ground on the future Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Ottawa. Four months later, the pandemic hit, and a harsh new reality set in.
Like many local tourism and entertainment destinations, the Rideau Carleton Casino suffered dearly during the pandemic, laying off 90 per cent of the team at one point, having to close the facility for a total of 18 months, and putting those groundbreaking plans on hold.
“I basically had four months of “normal” before really tough decisions had to be made,” said MacMillan. “It was baptism by fire, but I was lucky to have a strong team around me.”
Three years later, just as MacMillan and team thought they were out of the woods, an accidental fire in one of the staging barns for the Rideau Carleton Racetrack at the end of February, put the entire 2023 racing season in jeopardy.
“While we were extremely fortunate that no animals or people were hurt in the fire, it was a very difficult time for the whole team,” MacMillan said.
But with tragedy comes new strength. Since the fire, the horse racing community has come together to set up temporary installations, and to come up with a plan to salvage the season.
“When the chips are down, you really know who is there for you,” says MacMillan. “We have been so impressed with how resilient our racing team and the surrounding community have proven to be. It has been so inspiring to watch.”
Thanks to their collective commitment, harness racing will be returning on April 2nd, just two weeks after the original opening date.
And the momentum keeps building with the hiring and training of close to 140 new team members to support the reopening of table games like Blackjack, Baccarat and Roulette on March 31st.
“There is such excitement in the air with many of our dealers coming back, so many new team members joining, and the return of our table games players,” said MacMillan. “Now we are really off to the races!”
A little over three years into her mandate as general manager, MacMillan is only now getting to experience the Rideau Carleton Casino and Raceway in its full glory.
“With harness racing in full swing, over 1,250 slot machines in action, 20 table games welcoming players, a live entertainment venue regularly selling out events, and a bustling award-winning Italian restaurant, the Rideau Carleton Casino, Future Hard Rock is back in action!”
And with close to final approval on the permits required to finally break ground on the future Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Ottawa, it looks like MacMillan and her growing team will have even more to celebrate very soon.
To become a member of the Future Hard Rock family, visit https://www.rideaucarletoncasino.com/careers.htm today to learn more about available positions.