Mayor's endorsement of Rideau-Carleton casino upsets businessman

Ottawa's mayor says if he gets his way, it will be a new casino at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway or none at all.

Jim Watson 'narrows focus' after OLG limits city to one casino

A high profile Ottawa businessman is not happy with the Mayor endorsing Rideau Carleton Raceway as the future site of a casino. 4:10

A high profile Ottawa businessman is not happy with the Mayor's decision to endorse Rideau Carleton Raceway as the future site of an Ottawa casino.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said if he gets his way, it will be a new casino at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway or none at all.

Ottawa Senator's owner, Eugene Melnyk was hoping that Scotiabank place would be considered as a possible site by  Ontario Lottery and Gaming.

Melnyk is calling on city councillors to not support the mayor's motion so that a debate about the best site can take place.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, he said he believes Scotiabank place is "a highly logical and reasonable alternative."

Watson told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan if council agrees with his motion to identify the existing facility as their choice, there’s no switching to a downtown location if the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says no to the raceway.

"If they say 'no' then there won’t be a gaming facility in the City of Ottawa, plain and simple," he said.

Watson said in a blog post Monday he supports the raceway as "the only acceptable option" for a new casino in Ottawa.

He had previously said all locations were "on the table", including a new downtown casino or expanding the raceway.

The news comes after the OLG invited companies to bid on a potential new casino in the Ottawa area.

Change came from OLG response

Watson said his preference is for a downtown location, but after the OLG denied his request for a second location at the raceway (similar to the Woodbine track in the Toronto area), he’s changed his stance.

"The problem that poses is… unless (Rideau-Carleton Raceway) wins the bid, they would be shut down," he said.

"I felt the only choice we really did have was to say we have to narrow the focus."

He said a new Rideau-Carleton Raceway would keep some people away from Gatineau’s Lac-Leamy casino, but not as much as a downtown location would.

However, he said a casino at the raceway would serve Ottawa’s fast-growing south end.

Hotel could come to raceway

Ottawa councillor Doug Thompson, whose Osgoode ward includes the Rideau-Carleton Raceway, said a new, expanded casino could bring a hotel and other entertainment options.

Osgoode councillor Doug Thompson said there's lots of room to expand the raceway. (CBC)

"They have 400 acres they will develop if a new casino is here, so it’s going to be an entertainment area for the entire city," he said.

The Rideau-Carleton Raceway brings in around $20 million per year and employs more than 700 people.

Watson said he moved a motion to have table games at the raceway in 2011, but the OLG’s push for modernization meant they wanted something "bigger and better."

Wednesday’s proposal to the finance and economic development committee is a notice of motion, which Watson said will be followed by a public consultation period of about a month and end with a potential council vote in July.