Watson backs Rideau Carleton as casino location

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson has gone all in with his support of the Rideau Carleton Raceway, saying the location is the only acceptable option for a new casino.

Move dims chances of a downtown casino in Ottawa

Ottawa's mayor and some council members favour the Rideau-Carleton Raceway for casino. 1:50

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson has gone all in with his support of the Rideau Carleton Raceway, saying the location is "the only acceptable option" for a new casino.

Watson said he'll table a notice at Tuesday's Finance and Economic Development Committee proposing to identify the Rideau Carleton Raceway as "the only acceptable location for an expanded gaming facility in Ottawa."

The committee will consider the motion in a meeting in July. Should it be approved, the proposal would effectively kill any possibility for a casino in Ottawa's downtown core.

The mayor wrote Monday in a note to council members that the proposal comes after he wrote the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation about maintaining slots at Rideau Carleton even as OLG sought bids for a new casino in the city.

OLG responded that only one gaming site would be permitted in each zone, said Watson.

"It was becoming increasingly clear that there would be no future role for the RCR given the OLG’s most recent position. Therefore, I do not believe we should jeopardize the Rideau Carleton Raceway operation by not being crystal clear to the OLG prior to the start of its RFP process," wrote Watson.

"Identifying the RCR as the City’s only acceptable location will allow potential operators to propose ways to build on the success of the existing facility and bring larger economic benefits to the City, while responding to community concerns," he wrote.

Councillor Allan Hubley said he supports the proposed motion but said he wants to see the financial details of any Rideau Carleton Raceway bid before supporting the casino.

"I like what he is saying," said Hubley, who added he never thought a downtown casino was a viable choice.

The OLG has been inviting companies to bid for a potential new gambling facility in the Ottawa area.

A request for pre-qualification was sent out in November looking for bidders for a 20-year contract for a new casino. The OLG stated it wants to choose the winning bid by the end of 2013.

Watson said the city is encouraging residents to write the City Clerk about their thoughts on the casino motion between now and the July FEDCO meeting.