Despite the opinion of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation that Ottawa can support only one gambling site in addition to the Quebec government’s Lac Leamy casino in Gatineau, the Ottawa city council recently—once again—approved a motion to ask the province to allow two gambling sites in the city. The council’s finance committee was to take up the request on August 26.
Councillors Tim Tierney and Mark Taylor brought the motion to let Ottawa have two casinos, including one already located at the Rideau Carleton Raceway, plus a second casino within the city limits.
The move for two casinos would allow Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to bid for a second gambling facility. Melnyk said he’s been working since 2006 to add a casino to his property at the Canadian Tire Centre. He noted the Senators lose money and new income is needed to improve the arena. Melnyk’s attorney recently threatened legal action if the city continued to support the raceway as the only possible casino location. Melnyk also took out two full-page newspaper ads in the last two months criticizing the city’s raceway casino preference.
The Rideau Carleton Raceway, located in south Ottawa, depends on its 1,250 OLG slots which would be removed if the province builds a single new casino elsewhere. However, under Tierney and Taylor’s plan, if the OLG wants a new Ottawa casino, it would have to leave the raceway’s slots intact; if it only wants one casino, it would have to be at the raceway and include the current slots plus an additional 21 table games that were approved by the city council but never installed.
For years, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has led an effort to restrict a new provincial casino to the Raceway. OLG wants to build new casinos to generate additional revenue for the provincial government.