Newfoundland and Labrador (N.L.) Finance Minister Ross Wiseman has come out with a statement in which he declared that the 2003 casino gambling ban remains in force, and will continue to do so because the provincial government’s stance remains the same. The minister’s declaration is in response to the July 29, 2015 CBC News report that the assessment of the proposal for the establishment of a casino in St. John’s is regarded as a progressive move for the province.
CBC News acquired the information about the St. John’s casino business case by way of an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) request. The government briefing documents received by CBC, albeit redacted, provides an overview of a 2012 proposal to put up a casino and eGaming Policy. The January 2015 government notes contained information stating that the primary targets of the proposed casino are the adult and senior citizens who live within an hour’s drive from St. John’s, being the recommended location of a gambling facility.
Incumbent N. L. Finance Minister Wiseman confirmed in his statement that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) performed the assessment, but also said that the order to evaluate the viability of a casino in St. John’s did not come from the provincial government. He added that he could not explain why a former N.L. provincial Finance Minister had requested the lottery corporation to develop the St John casino business case. The Department of Finance briefing notes were redacted to hide from view the name of the Finance Minister who issued the directive to develop a business case.
Accordingly, a private entity had put forward a 2012 proposal for the government to enter into a partnership with a private organization for a casino and e-gaming project. The name of the entity recommended to handle the management of the proposed casino was redacted as well.
Actually, Ms. Charlene Johnson, the predecessor of Minister Wiseman, came out with pronouncements in 2014 about the province’s openness to consider at the least, proposals for a casino in Newfoundland and Labrador. In May 2014, then Finance Minister Ms. Johnson told CBC News that she believes it is fair for the N.L. government to review any proposal that comes their way, whether for a casino or whatever proposal there is.
May 2014 news reports have it that Ms. Johnson gave confirmation about unofficial discussions with ALC representatives regarding the possibility of a casino in Newfoundland and Labrador. The former Finance Minister had also mentioned that the lottery corporation offered to “run some number” if there is really a desire or interest regarding the matter.
Since the government briefing notes had been redacted, there is no confirmation if the ALC is the entity referred to in Section 29 of the documents, captioned as Project “Matthew.” The section mentioned that an experienced organization is capable of managing a casino in a safe gaming environment; but the name of the entity had also been redacted. The estimated total cost for a start-up casino, covering costs of land, building, systems, games, training, and promotions, was likewise redacted.
According to CBC Investigates, they have filed a petition to the information commissioner to review the redacted information