Hamilton is expecting another visit from the OLG next week. OLG President and CEO Rod Phillips, has been asked to speak at the gaming facility proposal sub-committee on November 9, to answer any questions councilors have about the new casino proposals. The sub-committee is chaired by Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina, who is determined to ensure the future of gaming in Hamilton is beneficial for the whole community.
Currently the OLG has a partnership with Flamboro Downs racetrack, as part of its expiring slots-at-track program with provincial tracks. The slots currently provide over $4 million each year in revenues for the city of Hamilton, but the program is set to expire in March leaving the future of gaming in the community in question.
Ever since the OLG announced its plans for installing casinos in Ontario communities, Hamilton council has been discussing the benefits and consequences of a casino in the community. The OLG says it will not force a casino on any community that does not vote to ratify the proposal.
Concerns about the casinos have so far revolved around socioeconomic problems, such as increased problem gambling along with concern racetracks like Flamboro Downs will not survive without the slot machines onsite. The end of year deadline imposed by the OLG has also not been welcomed by Hamilton politicians, including Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, whose riding is in Hamilton. She had previously attempted to put the issue to municipal elections in 2014.
OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti says a casino would likely not be placed near the Flamboro Downs track because a downtown location is more convenient for players. However, he reiterated council must vote in favour of the casino proposal before any future plans will be discussed.
So far, dozens of communities have expressed interest in a casino with North Bay, Kenora, and Belleville already voting in favour. Ottawa has also submitted its agreement to the OLG, while Toronto is set to begin its debate later this month.