Mayor, councillor battle over Mountain casino public forum

Mountain residents will get a public forum on a casino, after a heated argument at Friday's gaming facility subcommittee meeting.

Mountain residents will have a public forum in their community about whether to allow a Hamilton casino, but the decision to hold an extra meeting didn't come without a heated argument.

A spat between mayor Bob Bratina and Councillor Terry Whitehead about adding an additional forum regarding a potential casino happened before the gaming facility subcommittee meeting could get to scheduled business.

"You're forcing residents of the mountain not to be part of the process," Whitehead said at the sub-committee meeting Friday.

Council had previously decided to hold two public forums on a new gaming facility: one at city hall and a second in Flamborough where Hamilton's current gaming facility, Flamboro Downs, sits.

Whitehead told committee it was "insulting" that upper city residents were being excluded from the public forums.

 "We can't be accusing each other of insulting or making asinine decisions," Bratina said after the meeting. "So I addressed the councillor on that point. We have to behave better."

The subcommittee returned to the meeting's business, which was suggesting conditions to potential casino operators. Most of those conditions are related to a downtown location, Bratina said.

"A large part of a development would not be a casino," he said.  "It would be a smaller portion of a development that would include, say, a hotel."

Another big question for the subcommittee is revenue generation. Councillor Judi Partridge pointed out if Flamboro Downs were to close, the city would incur a $4.5 million loss of revenue, a $1 million tax loss and 3,000 job losses.

City staff was asked to prepare a report, to be submitted  to the subcommittee in January, addressing the potential of a hotel and casino development, and expected revenue.

Bratina said he hasn't made a decision about a location for a casino he would support just yet.

"There's a whole range of things I would oppose and some I would probably support, but in the absence of tangible proposals I'm not going to speculate on that," he said.

A date was not set for the public forum on the mountain.