Casino opponents in Ottawa are frustrated with city council for accepting the OLG gaming centre proposal without sufficient review. Critics believe Mayor Jim Watson accelerated the process without giving community residents sufficient time to express their opinions. The council seemingly agrees that the public consultation was insufficient, and argues it will rectify that – by holding public consultations on public consultations.
When the OLG first presented its gaming modernization strategy, the central platform of the policy was installing privatized casinos in major urban areas of Ontario. Ottawa was one of the favoured locations for a casino along with Toronto and Hamilton. However, the casinos have divided much of Ontario and while Toronto and Hamilton have held several consultation meetings, critics are furious that Mayor Watson agreed to the OLG’s plans without giving Ottawa the same opportunity for review as its sister cities.
It’s true that Ottawa is the first community to agree to the OLG casino proposal, but the details on where the casino will be, how much the city receives in revenues, and who are the interested partners has largely been kept from the public. Anti-casino demonstrators want the same public discussions about the OLG in Ottawa as there are in Toronto. Critics believe the publicly released designs from potential operator MGM, which launched a viral campaign to gather support for its proposal, have given Toronto citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions in a manner that has been prevented in Ottawa.
The public consultation in Ottawa included one town hall meeting that critics believe was insufficient to debate the casino in depth. Mayor Watson has come under fire from anti-casino opponents for the unsatisfactory review of the OLG proposal, and has also been criticized for failing to provide city councilors with sufficient information. As a result, opponents believe councilors voted for the casino without a cost-benefit analysis, and the community is rushing blindly into a life-long agreement.
Watson and city council reportedly agree that the review was rushed, and have agreed to include the public in future consultations. Ottawa will host public consultations to discuss how to openly host other public consultations – a process that will inevitably face its own criticism.