Consultants' report says casino, arena on Kingsway comes with negative economic consequences

Casino Free Sudbury and the Downtown Sudbury BIA have new information to support their claim that the Kingsway Entertainment District is a bad idea.

Study commissioned by Casino Free Sudbury, backed by Downtown Sudbury BIA

Tom Fortin with Casino Free Sudbury and Jeff McIntyre with the Downtown Sudbury BIA speak to the media about the report released Tuesday. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Casino Free Sudbury and the Downtown Sudbury BIA have new information to support their claim that the Kingsway Entertainment District is a bad idea.

The proposed project would put a municipal arena, a casino and other amenities like a hotel, on currently undeveloped land along the Kingsway, in the eastern part of Greater Sudbury.

City council has approved the project, but still needs to rezone the property, which is owned by developer Dario Zulich. 

In the meantime, a $60,000 economic and financial impact report was commissioned by a group led by Tom Fortin, who heads the anti-casino group, Casino Free Sudbury.

The report, which was released Tuesday, was compiled by independent consultant UrbanMetrics, which has experience in casino gambling and municipal development.

One key area of the report deals with where casino revenues comes from.

"[The consultants] recognize that there's a big difference between casinos in remote communities like Sudbury and casinos in southern Ontario that have millions of people to draw from, so they draw income from other surrounding communities to their benefit," Fortin says.

"Whereas who can we draw from? What we have around Sudbury are moose, deer, foxes, these sorts of things, and they don't frequent the casinos."

Fortin says the study shows there are many economic and financial drawbacks to the Kingsway Entertainment District.

"There is really no benefit in jobs. There's really no benefit as far as tax revenues go. This is certainly not going to pay for itself, and it's all detailed in the report by the experts," Fortin says.

Downtown BIA stands by report

Jeff McIntyre is the director of the Downtown Sudbury BIA. He thinks the city should have commissioned its own economic impact study for the Kingsway project.

"We were making the arguments based on facts, from the beginning, and talked to a lot of experts. The city didn't get a paid report on the economic impact of an events centre. So we did," McIntyre says.

He says although the BIA supports the final report, they did not commission it.

"Tom Fortin went out, got a whole bunch of businesses from across the community, — not necessarily downtown businesses, actually probably more from not-downtown — who just realized this is bad economics for the city."
City councillor Robert Kirwan says the economic impact report is skewed to support development in the downtown core. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Results skewed city councillor says

City councillors were all sent a copy of the impact study before it was released publicly.

Ward 5 city councillor Robert Kirwan says he feels the details have been skewed to support development in the downtown core.

"UrbanMetrics are experts in developing downtowns, so of course they're going to come out with a report that's going to be slanted and biased towards the downtown. That's what they were commissioned to do," Kirwan says.

"I'm not surprised by the report, and when you look at the report there is nothing new," he says.

Kirwan also feels that the report is an opinion piece rather than objective research.

"If you look at the summary pages at the beginning of that report notice how many times in that report you see the words 'In our opinion,'" he says.

"[City council] made a decision. The city seems to be behind it. We've got $500-million worth of investments on the Kingsway and downtown combined."

Are there grounds for an appeal?

The city's planning committee will deal with the rezoning of the property on March 26 and March 28, for the casino and arena respectively. The city says public comments are welcome.

Fortin says he and other opponents plan to be at both meetings to present their findings.

The decisions from those planning committee meetings will then be discussed and voted on during the city council meeting on April 10.

If the rezoning is approved by city council, Fortin says his group will appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, and he plans to use the results of this economic impact report as evidence in that appeal process.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for more than a dozen years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca