The OLG divided Ontario into gaming zones when it announced its gaming modernization plans, and communities are debating the pros and cons of a privatized casino within their jurisdictions. Ottawa voted in favour of the OLG casino proposal, while Barrie rejected the idea. Dozens of other Ontario communities remain locked in debate, and last week the regions of Kitchener and Waterloo agreed to hold public consultations on the proposal.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce spent months lobbying their respective city councils to consider the OLG casino proposal. The Chamber argues that the region is expanding, and requires additional revenues to fund its expansion, particularly its upcoming light-rail transit system that will operate from north Waterloo to south Kitchener.
The Chamber’s efforts seemingly paid off as both city councils agreed to host public consultation meetings, similar to the public input at meetings in Toronto and Hamilton. After gathering public feedback regarding the casino proposal, both city councils will vote on the issue which will determine the future of gambling in the region.
While Waterloo councilors openly supported the Chamber of Commerce’s arguments, councilors in Kitchener were more reluctant to host the consultation. Kitchener councilors accused Chamber members, including President Ian McLean, of having ulterior motives beyond opening the debate to gather new revenues for the community. Councilors felt the Chamber and the OLG were withholding facts and revenue forecasts that must be apparent before the community could support a casino.
Nevertheless, Kitchener will host a public consultation meeting on April 23, while Waterloo councilors will use web and phone feedback to determine the opinions of community residents. Interestingly, neighbouring Cambridge outright refused to even consider the public consultation, and outright rejected the idea of a casino.