The OLG has put much of its focus this week on the Toronto casino proposal, in the aftermath of Rob Ford’s removal as mayor. Hamilton has been another important focus for the OLG, due to Steeltown being the third largest community in the province after the GTA and Ottawa. Hamilton currently receives over $4 million annually in slots revenue from the Flamboro Downs racetrack in partnership with the OLG, but that program is expiring in 2013. The OLG has given Hamilton until the end of February to decide if a casino would be a welcome addition in the community, and Brantford is offering some advice based on its experience with a casino.
Hamilton councilors have taken the casino proposal to citizens in their wards through phone surveys, emails, and public meetings to gather feedback on the OLG plan. Council has indicated it prefers installing a casino at the Flamboro Downs racetrack instead of downtown in order to maintain business at the track and restrict cases of problem gambling. Councilor Jason Farr, who represents the downtown jurisdiction, says he has spoken with several residents and the response has been approximately 65 percent of respondents against a downtown casino.
“I hear don’t mess with the momentum currently on the go, that a casino could stymie the smaller businesses.”
However, Brantford city councilors and casino operators are inserting their opinions into their neighbour’s debate that encourage Hamilton to consider the benefits of a downtown casino. Brantford casino operators consider their business an entertainment venue home to more than just slots, table games, and a private poker room, and an iconic symbol of the revitalized downtown Brantford area. Current General Manager Grant Darling says the casino operates every day of the year, and employs up to 850 local residents.
“These are good paying jobs that we can train people to do. That’s a great boost to any town in this economic climate.”
Darling also encourages Hamilton to consider the infrastructure investments that can be supported by revenue from a casino, citing Brantford casino’s $17 million contribution to the local economy. Public opinion in Hamilton remains fairly evenly split, but evidence from Brantford’s casino experience may help sway enough support to the casino’s cause.