Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was pulled into a conversation about the proposal for two casinos in Ottawa while campaigning for John Fraser, the right-hand man of former Premier Dalton McGuinty who is running in a by-election.
But Wynne is notably uncomfortable with sharing her opinion on the OLG casino expansion strategy, which was demonstrated earlier this year in Toronto and now once again in Ottawa.
The OLG gaming modernization strategy was a plan championed by McGuinty as well as former OLG Chairman Paul Godfrey. But ever since her appointment as the new Premier, Wynne has shown a less enthusiastic approach to expanding gambling across the province. While she insists the strategy will continue as planned, she has refused to allow her government to influence discussions between the OLG and respective city councils.
The Premier was asked for her opinion about the new casino proposals in Ottawa while in town last week. On Wednesday July 19, Ottawa city council approved a motion to ask the OLG for a second designated gaming zone in the region, which would authorize two separate casinos. Wynne once again refused to be pulled into the discussion, and insisted the authorization process is in the hands of Ottawa councilors under Mayor Jim Watson, alongside the OLG.
“I’ve said all along that it’s up to municipalities to work with OLG to make these decisions. The expertise around commercial viability is with the OLG.”
Wynne believes city councils deserve the right to approve or reject casinos within their jurisdictions, though she has stated on the record that she is personally uncomfortable with private casinos across Ontario. Ottawa approved one gaming facility last fall, but wants a second casino to satisfy all members of the community.
Although the Premier is reluctant to get involved in the casino discussions, the provincial government ultimately has the final say on the casinos. Eventually, Wynne must firmly express her position on the casinos, in Ottawa and elsewhere – one way or the other.