Gambling is taking on a new form in Ontario as part of the OLG strategy to modernize gambling activity in the province. The new look will include several Las Vegas style casinos in some of Ontario’s biggest cities and communities, a movement that has required input from the public for city councils to make their vote. Toronto has established several town hall meetings in January to gather public opinion, and Hamilton has now announced similar meetings.
The first meeting will occur on January 16 at Waterdown District High School, where a panel of councilors and gaming experts will open the floor to the public for opinions and feedback. Discussions are also expected to include the future of Flamboro Downs, the nearby racetrack that benefits from the OLG slots at racetrack program. Hamilton receives over $4 million annually in slot revenues from the racetrack, but the track’s future is bleak with the cancellation of the slots sharing program on March 31. Councilors are expected to reiterate their support for a casino onsite of Flamboro Downs, and will ask the public for approval or a preference for a downtown Hamilton casino.
The next meeting will be on January 17 located inside Hamilton City Hall in the heart of downtown. The public will be shown maps from the City Planning Department that highlight areas of downtown Hamilton they believe could support a casino – including along Hamilton Harbour, along King Street East, York Boulevard, or located across from the Jackson Square mall. However, Department Manager Tim McCabe has stated and is expected to restate that a downtown casino must be part of a city-building and renewal project, which includes a hotel and entertainment centre with the casino.
The OLG has been in discussion with potential casino operators about the Hamilton casino and McCabe insists he knows several of the names being considered – though he refuses to publicly state the names of these companies and investors. The OLG has given Hamilton until March 1 to submit a vote of approval or rejection of the casino project, which is in line with the time period given to most Ontario communities. However, the OLG has stressed that if a city votes against a casino, the issue will not be forced upon a community that has rejected the idea.