The Ottawa casino is a renewed debate in the nation’s capital, after councilor Tim Tierney proposed reopening the casino file in light of significant changes at the OLG and Queen’s Park in Toronto. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson remains committed to the casino, but clarified his stance that he will only support an expanded gaming facility at the Rideau Carlton Raceway.
When Ottawa agreed to the casino, Watson and other pro-casino councilors were in favour of a downtown location for the facility, along with an expanded gambling centre at the Raceway on the outskirts of town. The OLG insisted that only one gambling facility is authorized within each of its self-described gaming zones. The gaming zone in Ottawa includes the southern borders of the city where the raceway is situated, which means only one casino is authorized in the region.
The mayor was one of the most supportive advocates for the casino, and persuaded a majority of councilors to agree to negotiations with the OLG last fall. However, the people of Ottawa are against a downtown casino if it means Rideau Carlton is forced to close its doors. Bowing to public pressure, Watson altered his position in a statement yesterday, in which he compared Rideau Carlton to the Woodbine racetrack in Toronto and confirmed he will only support a casino at the racetrack.
“It is becoming more and more apparent that it wouldn’t be given any kind of similar treatment that Toronto is given because Toronto’s Woodbine had a separate zone in addition to the rest of Toronto.”
Tierney and his supporters on city council accepted Watson’s statement. Councilor Doug Thompson, whose ward houses Rideau Carlton, believes the mayor’s statement assures Ottawa citizens that there will be no casino in the region unless the OLG agrees to a deal that is in the best interests of the city.
“I’m sort of speechless. I have to give the mayor credit for taking that position and listening and being proactive.”
Tierney plans to reopen the debate on the casino before the summer, while Watson hopes the debate can occur in July before the OLG begins its search for a credible casino operator.