Ottawa Mayor Faces Off With Ottawa Senators Over Casino

The mayor of Ottawa is in a tough faceoff with the owner of the Ottawa Senators over the OLG proposed casino for the region.  Mayor Jim Watson wants only the Rideau Carlton Raceway considered as the sole location for the casino, while Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants Scotiabank Place, home of the Senators, also under consideration.

When Ottawa first agreed to the OLG casino, Watson lobbied hard to convince a majority of councilors to support the proposal.  The mayor believed casinos could provide significant streams of revenue to fund city services.  However, Watson says he was under the impression that the city could host a downtown casino, while also expanding gambling services at the Rideau Carlton.

The OLG clarified last month that the entire Ottawa region is part of one pre-designated gambling zone, which means only one gambling facility is allowed within the region.  Watson, recognizing residents support the Rideau Carlton more than a casino, adjusted his stance to support only the Raceway as a host site for the casino.  The mayor intends to introduce a motion for councilors to vote on by mid-July.

But Watson is facing tough opposition from Melnyk, who supported the mayor with lobbying efforts of his own last fall.  Melnyk agreed to support the casino if Scotiabank Place was one of the locations submitted to the OLG as a potential casino host site.  Melnyk slammed the mayor for what he described as a “double-cross,” and is encouraging councilors not to back Watson’s motion next month.

Councilor Marianne Wilkinson is one of Ottawa’s councilors seemingly on Melnyk’s side in the dispute.  She referenced the redesigned Lansdowne park sole-sourcing contract that began in 2009 as an example of what she describes as failed sole-sourcing plans, which she feels shouldn’t be repeated with the casino.

“I don’t like single-sourcing things.  We single-sourced Lansdowne and we said we’re not going to do that again, and in my mind, this is single-sourcing.” 

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