For a man who needs the city of Edmonton’s help to secure an arena deal for the Edmonton Oilers; team owner Daryl Katz is making a dangerous gamble negotiating with the city. After agreeing a year ago to a financing agreement with the city of Edmonton, Katz has issued a new request to add $6 million in extra funds to help prop up what he says is a team that bleeds money despite reports to the contrary. He also is asking for tax breaks and a casino license but has twice now refused to meet with city council in a public forum to discuss the matter in detail.
That last request goes beyond achieving Edmonton’s consent as casino licensing is a provincial jurisdiction that would require agreement from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). So far Katz has had no direct meetings with the AGLC however, a bill currently before Parliament in Ottawa that would legalize single game sportsbetting across Canada might change that. If the bill passes that extra revenue made from single game betting would be free to be used however each provincial gaming institution chooses; and there have been theories the AGLC might use it to help support an arena deal for the Edmonton Oilers.
As one of Canada’s seven NHL teams the Oilers are a valuable piece of Canadian business that fans would be crushed to see leave the city if a new arena deal is not worked out. The joy shown from fans in Winnipeg when the Winnipeg Jets returned home after 15 years; is proof that loyalty to the home team stays strong no matter how long.
But Katz is exploiting the Canadian devotion to hockey as a negotiating tactic arguing that both sides need each other and the economic benefits that come from having an NHL team are worth the $700 million projected costs for a new arena.
“The Oilers need Edmonton and Edmonton needs the Oilers. Each is an integral part of the fabric and the identity of the other.”
Refusing to meet with city council is definitely a sign Katz is ready to drop the gloves and go for the jersey but it’s delaying what could cost Edmonton time to work out an arena deal and ultimately the Oilers themselves. Here’s hoping Ottawa passes the sportsbetting bill in time and the AGLC is willing to help out.