Since OLG first announced their plans to establish new casinos in Ontario’s cities, there have been dozens of communities that have stepped forward with interest in receiving a casino investment. A lot of speculation has been centred on downtown Toronto or somewhere in the GTA being the frontrunner; but other cities including the nation’s capital have been encouraging the OLG to look into their locations too. At a meeting that ran late into the evening October 2 Ottawa took the first step in moving towards shovels in the ground.
Ottawa’s finance and economic development committee listened to representatives from OLG including president and CEO Rod Phillips; as well as citizens in the community, social development groups, and other stakeholders on the pros and cons of establishing a casino in the city’s borders. Mayor Jim Watson had previously proposed using the Rideau Carlton Raceway as the potential location for a casino which in itself received some opposition from groups interested in preserving the site as it is.
Phillips made clear to the committee that this vote is just the first step and is not binding for the city to follow through. A complete agreement will require consent from OLG, Ottawa city council, and the operator chosen to establish the casino. He did mention however that if the committee or council at its vote next week decides against the proposal that the nearby township of Clarence-Rockland is interested in the OLG putting a casino in their community.
That little tidbit or warning may have skewed the voting results. Despite some opposition, the committee voted overwhelmingly 10-1 in favour of sending an official request to OLG to find an operator for a casino in Ottawa. Opposition groups argued that the shared revenue between the city and the OLG hasn’t been decided and the economic and social costs of a casino have yet to be determined, warning not to rush into an agreement blindly.
The committee chose to move ahead with the process but these arguments are expected to be echoed at the city council meeting next week. Official approval and consent to partner with OLG will not be granted until that vote. But with Ottawa moving ahead and Toronto expected to be a key site for operators, the future of other communities’ casino plans lies in the balance.