Casino Brantford is in the midst of a C$37.5 million renovation which will incorporate the state of the art in green-energy features

Brantford is a small, historic city on the Grand River in southern Ontario with charming, well-maintained 19th century homes with wide wooden porches overlooking tree-shaded streets. Alexander Graham Bell lived here. Wayne Gretzky was born here.

For popular entertainment there is a modest little casino. Not exactly Las Vegas. But then Brantford is way ahead of Vegas, environmentally speaking.

Casino Brantford, one of six “charity” casinos owned and operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, an agency of the provincial government, is in the midst of a C$37.5 million renovation which when completed in 2011 will incorporate much of the state of the art in green-energy features currently available to OLG.

It’s all part of the corporation’s Bet on Green initiative, a wide-ranging and innovative program of environmental sustainability that eventually will encompass all of the province’s casino and lottery operations.

“We generate about a billion pieces of paper a year, mainly for lottery tickets, and we will reduce that volume by 80 percent over the next five years,” says Alex Hocevar, senior manager of Bet on Green. “We have already reduced the size of tickets by an average of 15 to 20 percent. That will save [by 2014] about 6,000 trees and about $2 million a year in costs.”

OLG also is converting 100 percent of its energy consumption to renewable sources to help realize its goal of achieving Silver certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. LEED incorporates a set of globally recognized standards for environmentally sustainable construction that are reviewed by more than 10,000 member organizations.

Casinos obviously draw extremely heavy energy loads to power their elaborate decorative and utility lighting, hundreds, or thousands, of slot machines and (typically) non-stop gaming, not to mention heating, cooling, surveillance cameras, air circulation and replacement, restaurants, bars, and so on. Not exactly what one would call a model green environment.

“Slots take a fair amount of electricity, whether they’re being played or not, so we’re working with vendors to figure out ways of saving energy when the slots aren’t in use,” Hocevar says. “We use more than 100,000 megawatt hours a year at our gaming sites, and we will work toward having at least five Silver-certified LEED facilities, where possible, by 2014.”

Casino Brantford, with 517 slot machines and 55 table games, uses its fair share of energy. The property welcomed about 1.2 million patrons in the last fiscal year and generated more than C$96 million in gaming revenue. (Net profits, as at all Ontario casinos and racinos - with the exception of Casino Rama, located on First Nations land - fund health care and education programs, amateur sports and recreational and cultural activities and support other charitable and non-profit organizations.)

Brantford, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, will be the first casino in Canada to use 100 percent “green” electricity, with an estimated savings equivalent in energy use to taking more than 400 cars off Ontario roads this year.

OLG, meanwhile, has Bet on Green teams at work across the province, encouraging properties to find ways to reduce their environmental footprint, by turning out lights at night, printing on both sides of paper, by challenging staff to become involved.

“Employees have in fact reduced energy consumption and electricity usage each by 6 percent over the past nine months, even before any corporate directives were issued,” says Hocevar.

There is more to come - recycling anything recyclable, sourcing environmentally friendly construction materials, and reducing the use of volatile chemicals in renovations, for example.

OLG is not alone. There are about 1,200 LEED-certified buildings in Canada, and about 800 of them are institutional or for public use, according to the Canada Green Building Council, based in Ottawa.

So while Casino Brantford will never be as wealthy or as crowded as Ontario’s big “resort” casinos - Casino Niagara, Casino Rama, Fallsview Casino Resort and Caesars Windsor - it will soon be a lot friendlier to the environment, and on the expense side of the ledger, a much cheaper property to operate than it is now.

Casino Brantford Facts

-Located at 40 Icomm Drive, Brantford, Ont. (about 30 minutes from Hamilton)

-Opened Nov. 17, 1999

-500 video and reel-spinning slot machines ranging in denomination from 1 cent to $5 and 55 table games (roulette, blackjack, craps, Sic Bo, Spanish 21, Texas Hold ’Em poker, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud poker, Let It Ride, Pai Gow) with bet limits from $5 to $100.

-Galileo’s restaurant seats 136 and serves a variety of dishes, from sandwiches and salads to chicken, ribs and steaks.

-Amenities include a Sports Lounge, gift shop and currency exchange

-Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

-910 employees

-Owned and operated by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, an agency of the Government of Ontario reporting to the Ministry of Finance