Ottawa double-down casino pitch reviewed by OLG

The City of Ottawa wants a fifth gaming zone within eastern Ontario to allow for two possible casinos, which would give the province its 30th gaming zone.

Philip Olsson announced as new OLG chairman with focus on horse racing integration

There could be up to 30 casinos in Ontario within the next several years if the current OLG zoning map is altered to include two zones within Ottawa. (Stock photo)

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says it will review the City of Ottawa's request for two gaming zones with provincial government officials, which could see the province with a potential for 30 casinos.

Ottawa's city council voted in favour of two potential casinos on Wednesday. That will see the discussion return to its finance and economic development committee on Aug. 26, according to Ottawa's mayor.

In the meantime, the OLG said it would look at the city's request, which would require altering the current zoning map across Ontario. Eastern Ontario currently has four gaming zones, as mapped by the OLG, out of 29 total across the province:

  • Peterborough.
  • Belleville/Quinte west.
  • Kingston/Gananoque/Leeds and Grenville.
  • Ottawa/Prescott and Russell.

Southwestern Ontario has 12 zones, central Ontario has eight and northern Ontario has five. Each zone is allowed up to one gaming facility, according to the OLG

Chance for 30 gaming facilities

Casinos/slots, by province (excluding video lottery terminals):

  • B.C.: 17.
  • Alberta: 27.
  • Saskatchewan: 8.
  • Manitoba: 5 (1 to open in late 2013).
  • Ontario: 24.
  • Quebec: 6.
  • New Brunswick: 1.
  • Nova Scotia: 2.
  • P.E.I.: 1.
  • Newfoundland: 0.
  • Yukon/N.W.T./Nunavut: 1.

There is the potential for 30 zones in Ontario if Ottawa were to have a second, but it is unlikely every town or city council will vote in favour of a casino. There are currently 24 gaming facilities in Ontario.

Ottawa's mayor said Wednesday he believed another gaming zone would help the economy in rural areas of the city. That would include one in south Ottawa (Rideau-Carleton Raceway) and another in either the west or east end.

The motion would mean two "modest" casinos, not large-scale facilities that resemble Las Vegas, according to Coun. Steve Desroches.

It was the city's solution after councillors voted in June to back the Rideau-Carleton Raceway as its only choice for a potential casino in the national capital's zone.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk then threw a wrench into the plan. First he paid for two full-page newspaper advertisements criticizing Mayor Jim Watson and city council for their decision.

Then at a committee meeting last week, Melnyk's lawyer threatened possible legal action if the city continued to support the raceway as the only possible casino location.

While the city's lawyer said Wednesday the lawsuit threats were "baseless," city council seemed to be affected by the harsh warning.

'Better integration' with horse racing

Melnyk wants a casino near the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, while those in Clarence-Rockland have made it known they want to bid for a casino. There would still be the potential for a downtown casino, as well, if councillors approved it.

The OLG's new gaming expansion currently sees an increase in online gaming and the cancellation of its "Slots at the Racetrack" program.

Ontario's auditor general is currently reviewing the expansion to examine whether there are any secret or one-off deals of casino hosting payments to municipalities. The probe will also look into the Liberal government's cancellation of the $345-million-a-year share of slot machine revenues earmarked for racetracks.

Also on Thursday, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa nominated Philip Olsson as the new chairman of OLG, replacing the recently ousted Paul Godfrey. Olsson is currently the chairman of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Sousa's news release said Olsson will try to create "better integration" with horse racing, which could help locations such as Ottawa's Rideau-Carleton Raceway bid for a casino.

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