The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will be back in front of Hamilton councillors this month to talk about a possible casino in the city.
Rod Phillips, OLG president and CEO, will appear before the gaming facility proposal sub-committee on Nov. 9. The committee asked him to come, said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti.
“He'll be there to answer any questions they have.”
The sub-committee, chaired by Mayor Bob Bratina, is examining the future of gaming in Hamilton. Currently, the OLG runs 801 slots at Flamboro Downs as part of its Slots at Racetracks program, but that program ended earlier this year.
The lease at Flamboro Downs expires in March. The OLG is currently negotiating a short-term lease beyond March that will be transferable to a third-party operator selected through a Request for Proposal process.
That operator will have license to offer gaming in Hamilton but will likely not be bound to doing so at Flamboro Downs, Bitonti said. Allowing the operator to offer gaming anywhere in Hamilton, including downtown, will attract better candidates, he said.
For council's part, it has been grappling with the notion of a casino. For a casino to happen, council must pass a resolution saying it welcomes gaming in its zone, the OLG says.
The current Flamboro Downs slots bring in $4.4 million to the city coffers each year, said Rob Rossini, Hamilton's general manager of finance and corporate services. And it plays an important role in people's taxes.
Since the program began in 2000, Hamilton has received $49 million from the slots. Of that, $15 million was used for the Borer's Creek drainage and channel project in Flamborough. From 2001 to 2008, $13 million was used to reduce the tax levy for Flamborough. Since 2008, it has gone toward lowering taxes for all Hamilton homeowners by about 0.7 per cent.
That money will not necessarily be in jeopardy after March 31, Rossini said, because “we can't prejudge what's going to happen under the OLG.” Rossini will present information on the future of the slots to councillors on Nov. 12.
The OLG has been traveling around the province offering gaming facilities to different areas, Bitonti said. It recently attended large community meetings in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, where hundreds attended. Toronto will begin debate on the issue this month.
So far, 37 municipalities have expressed interest in having a gaming facility, and more votes are coming in the weeks ahead, he said.
North Bay, Kenora and Belleville have voted in favour of gaming. Ottawa has also voted in favour of the possibility of moving its slots, currently at a racetrack site, to a downtown area.