Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s request for additional gaming in the provincial city has been rejected.
Watson wanted his city to keep existing slots at Rideau-Carleton Raceway and add a second facility elsewhere, reports CBC News Ottawa. But Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Ottawa could not sustain two gaming halls.
The Ottawa Public Health Board concurred, citing concerns about increased gambling addiction. Though Watson offered to approach the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and the province for an annual investment of $2 million to treat problem gambling, the board was unconvinced, and voted 8-1 against a casino expansion.
Earlier this year, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne fired Lottery and Gaming Chairman Paul Godfrey because they could not agree on the OLG’s handling of gaming modernization, according to John McMillan of the National Capital Region Harness Horse Association. Godfrey insisted he was given no reason for his dismissal, but he made public statements indicating that Toronto would receive a special deal from OLG if it hosted a casino.
Wynne later told reporters, “I was clear there wouldn’t be any special deals for Toronto,” and in May, Toronto City Council rejected a proposal to develop a casino there. Godfrey has since been replaced by Philip Olsson, the former head of the provincial Liquor Control Board. Olsson is the sixth chairman of OLG in the last seven years.
In Ottawa, Councillor Marianne Wilkinson said restricting gaming to Rideau-Carlton Raceway would “provide an economic benefit for one business over others,” is therefore illegal under the Municipal Act, and could open up the city to lawsuits.
Nonetheless, Ottawa’s City Council voted to restrict any new casino in the city to Rideau Carleton Raceway and limit it to 1,250 slot machines and 21 table games.
The vote reverses a decision by council last October to invite bidding on a casino and appears to have dashed the hopes of Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and other potential operators for a stand-alone venue at a more advantageous location.
Melnyk wanted to build a casino as part of an entertainment complex complementing his Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata. The Senators lose money, he has said, and having a year-round draw would help to stem the losses.