Hamilton has an extra month to decide whether or not it wants a casino, according to an email from Mayor Bob Bratina to city council.
“After updating the OLG on our council's progress and awaiting the upcoming staff report, I suggested an extension of a month to continue our work,” the email reads. “They were supportive and agreeable. I look forward to council's input.”
Hamilton has been debating a possible casino since last year. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commissions' lease to operate 801 slot machines at Flamboro Downs expires March 31.
The corporation had originally said it wanted the city to pass a motion by March 1 saying whether Hamilton still wants a gaming facility, and if so, where one could be located.
OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti told CBC Hamilton the OLG has "always been flexible if a municipality needs more time."
"We want to make sure council and the mayor makes an informed decision based on facts," Bitonti said, adding that the OLG would now need a decision by mid to late March.
Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla praised the decision, and said he “looked forward to focusing on our Flamborough site with the OLG and private sector bidders.”
“In light of the OLG committing to pursuing the RFP process respecting our autonomously made decision of a Flamborough site any extension is redundant in the truest meaning of the word and I formally thank the OLG for this commitment,” he said.
“I want to congratulate all involved in ensuring a made in Hamilton decision would prevail against a Torontocentric attack on our autonomy.”
Council is set to receive a staff report on a casino that will go to a special general issues committee meeting on Feb. 14. The weighty report — more than 400 pages with appendices — estimates the economic benefits of potential casino locations.
Merulla had planned to introduce a motion at that meeting asking the province to encourage the OLG to halt the casino process so council can have a referendum during the 2014 municipal election.
But because of the OLG's decision to grant Hamilton more time, Merulla says he will be lifting his referendum motion and tabling a motion that says that the city "supports being a host municipality for a gaming site only at the Flamborough Downs location."
Coun. Judi Partridge has also said she will introduce a motion asking the province to sign a ministerial zoning order to allow a “full gaming facility and ancillary casino uses such as a hotel and restaurants, as well as construction expansion of Flamboro Downs.” The notice of motion came on the same day that the RockHammer group presented its plan for a downtown entertainment complex, which would include a hotel, casino and restaurants.With files from Samantha Craggs