The Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation says it would approve a new casino in Ottawa only if the city is interested and the OLG would only approve the casino if it is built in an area "where the customers are."

The finance and economic development committee met Tuesday evening to discuss and debate motions regarding the possibility of a new casino being built in Ottawa.


Rod Phillips, CEO of the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation, was in Ottawa to tell a city committee about the province's new gambling strategy, including moving casinos from borders to city centres. (CBC)

Rod Phillips, president and CEO of OLG, told the committee and a full city council chambers Ontario is changing its way of thinking from placing casinos near borders, which is "outdated."

Phillips said modernizing the plan would not mean one large gambling centre but rather a casino that is integrated in a community.

Phillips also said the city would receive some of the slots revenue from a casino, but no money from a hotel or restaurant, if built.

The city committee put forth a motion Tuesday evening to signal Ottawa's interest in a casino, a move that would allow the OLG to seek proposals from potential operators.

But the 32 delegations, including community groups, members of the public and other stakeholders such as the Rideau-Carleton Raceway, shared their opposition and support for a casino.

But they did not start speaking until close to 7 p.m. Tuesday, the original end time for meeting, because councillors had many questions for the OLG.

Many councillors also expressed their desire to preserve the Rideau-Carleton Raceway in south Ottawa instead of building a new casino.

The OLG did add, though, if city councillors voted against the idea either at committee Tuesday or next week at city council, the nearby township of Clarence-Rockland had already expressed interest in building a new casino east of Ottawa.

Mayor wants raceway consideration

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson also asked the OLG to give special consideration to the Rideau-Carleton Raceway in the city's search for a potential casino operator in Ottawa.

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Ontario MPP says he wants a referendum for every new casino the province approves so local stakeholders can vote on the idea.

Watson and councillor Doug Thompson put forward a separate motion at the meeting that "strongly encourages" the OLG to establish a request for proposals process that is fair, transparent, open and competitive for all proponents, including the raceway.

The OLG confirmed there would not be a casino built in addition to the raceway, but it would either replace the current facility or be built on that site.

The motion also asked the OLG to provide an opportunity for the raceway to be "pre-qualified" to take part in the final bidding process "given their strong record of success in the Ottawa region."

OLG wants casino 'where the customers are'

The OLG did tell CBC News the revamping of gambling in Ontario includes casinos in busy areas. That location would be decided by three parties:

  • OLG.
  • City of Ottawa.
  • Privately-owned partner.

"Our premise is we want to be where the customers are," said OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti. "It will be up to the private sector, ultimately, where they feel is the best business opportunity for the customer."

Bitonti said the OLG would work with the city for any re-zoning needed for a possible new casino.

Tuesday's committee meeting was also an opportunity for various stakeholders, including community groups, to speak about the potential impact of a casino in the city.

The areas of discussion at the meeting were on the economic development, the rural implications, the legal implications, risk management implications, financial implications, accessibility impact, technology implications and health implications of a new casino in Ottawa.