Ottawa mayor Jim Watson is threatening to withdraw support for Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's local casino plans unless OLG backs off giving Toronto a better revenue sharing agreement than Ottawa is getting.
In a letter to OLG chair Paul Godfrey, Watson said OLG's suggestion that it will introduce preferential revenue sharing for Toronto would discriminate against all other Ontario municipalities.
"Unless the City of Ottawa receives the same revenue sharing formula as that being made available to the City of Toronto I will, in the coming months, bring forward a motion to City Council recommending that the City of Ottawa withdraw from the OLG's RFP process," he wrote.
In an interview with CBC Friday, Watson reiterated his ultimatum.
"The bottom line is this is all about fairness. If we’re going to be host to a gaming facility, then first and foremost we should get the exact same arrangement as any other city including Toronto," said Watson.
At issue is the hosting fee — the payment a city receives for allowing an OLG casino to operate in its territory. Watson wrote his letter to Godfrey after reading a story in the Globe and Mail that reported Toronto could get as much as $100 million.
The mayor was reacting to a story in the Globe and Mail that says Toronto could get as much as $100 million while Ottawa has been promised $4 million.
Rod Phillips, president of OLG, says the difference is not evidence of a preferential funding formula for Toronto.
"We're taking a consistent approach, relative to scale," said Phillips, referring to the upwards of $3 billion investors could sink into a Toronto gaming house, versus a $200 million casino for Ottawa.
But city councillor Tim Tierney thinks the gap in hosting fees is still too big.
"We need to have Mr. Phillips back at our city council table re-explaining and addressing some of these questions that have not been explained in any way," Tierney said.
While Phillips said he plans to respond to Watson's letter, by late Friday afternoon, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne released a statement that backed the OLG's position.
"The hosting fee for Toronto would reflect the size and scale that global gaming companies have confirmed is poissible in the city," Wynne said. "If the same capital investment and job potential are possible elsewhere, the same hosting fees would be generated."
In addition to Ottawa and Toronto, Collingwood-Wasaga Beach, Belleville-Quinte and North Bay are also being considered for new casino developments.