Bingeman calls Waterloo Region 'bully' in dispute over casino

A prominent Kitchener business leader is now weighing in on the fight between Waterloo Region, its municipalities and Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation, calling the regional government a 'bully.'
An artists' rendering of what a hotel, casino and convention centre would look like on the Bingeman's property in Kitchener. (ABA architechts)

A prominent Kitchener business leader is now weighing in on the fight between Waterloo Region, its municipalities and the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation and is calling the regional government a "bully."

Mark Bingeman is the president of Waterloo Region's largest entertainment venue, Bingeman's. He has been actively campaigning not just for Kitchener to pursue a casino, but to build the gaming facility on the sprawling grounds of his family-owned entertainment complex in northeast Kitchener.

"It almost seems there is a new bully in town," Bingeman said, in referrence to the regional government's opposition to potential casino plans in any of the area's seven municipalities.

The Kitchener businessman said the clear "no" from the region invites a larger discussion about how jurisdiction between the region and its seven municipalities overlap.

"That conversation at the regional level probably opens up a larger discussion across the board for all the municipalities on how governance occurs within our region," he said.

Casino dispute not about regional amalgamation

Bingeman stopped short of calling for a discussion on regional amalgamation and Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr agrees it's not the time. 

"This is not about amalgamation. It is an example of how a two-tier system is not a particularly good system in making these kinds of decisions, but that's not where this is going.

"This is an organization, a level of government who has a legitimate right to express an opinion," Zehr told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Thursday.

Still, regional council's 'no' remains symbolic. The OLG only needs the consent of a local municipality — such as Woolwich — in order to pursue casino negotiations.

Woolwich Township council has voted to try to work with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to develop a casino within its borders.

However, while visiting Waterloo yesterday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said that the OLG should review its rules surrounding casino negotiations if the region's motion passed.

"I don't think there's enough clarity on whose decision this should be." Wynne said to reporters in Waterloo.

The OLG said it is reviewing the Premier's comments and has declined to comment at this time.