Edmonton·Exclusive

Alberta agricultural society objects to relocating casino from Camrose to Edmonton citing legal concerns

An ongoing legal dispute between a Camrose agricultural society and the owner of the city’s only casino is being raised as a key sticking point in the facility's application to relocate to south Edmonton.

The group claims problematic history of unpaid loan payments by casino owners

Purple and yellow sign reading Camrose Resort and Casino.
The Camrose Regional Exhibition & Agricultural Society has objected to the proposed relocation of the Camrose Casino, citing an ongoing legal dispute with the casino's owners Mayfield Investments Ltd. (Scott Neufled/CBC)

An ongoing legal dispute between a Camrose agricultural society and the owner of the city's only casino is being raised as a key sticking point in the facility's application to relocate to south Edmonton.

The Camrose Regional Exhibition & Agricultural Society, a non-profit organization, filed an objection letter to Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Wednesday, claiming the owners of the Camrose Casino still owed the society a "substantial amount" of money.

The society's letter — which was obtained by CBC News — opposed relocating the casino to Edmonton and outlined five grievances about the potential move, including the disclosure of legal filings and whether the AGLC had been privy to all the documents.

The letter was filed as part of a consultation process to move the casino to Edmonton.

In March, four months before the society became aware the casino wanted to move, it filed a statement of claim seeking more than $1.7 million from Mayfield Investments Ltd., the casino's owners, for money it still owed to pay off a loan. 

The society said it loaned Mayfield $2.5 million in 2006 to build the casino.

According to court documents, a dispute arose between the parties "regarding the operation of the casino and the indebtedness owed by Mayfield to Camrose."

The society alleges the parties settled their dispute in 2015, with Mayfield agreeing to pay the society $1.5 million through monthly payments of $12,500. But Mayfield defaulted on many of its payments since April 2020, so the society is now seeking interest on what it's owed.

Mayfield filed a counter-claim in May, seeking $500,000 in punitive damages.

The court documents state part of the original settlement agreement meant the casino would only make payments "if sufficient cash-flow was available from the operation of the casino."

Provincial public health restrictions forced casinos to close or reduce operations at various times throughout 2020 and 2021 to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. 

Mayfield argues the closures resulted in little money coming in, so it couldn't make its payments.

It also argues that the settlement agreement stated any frustration or force majeure events, such as a global pandemic, would suspend or eliminate all payments due to the society. 

Mayfield Investments Ltd. did not reply to repeated attempts for comment.

In its objection letter, the society requested the AGLC board of directors vote against moving the casino.

According to the AGLC website, Capital City Casinos Ltd. applied to move the Camrose Casino from its current location, 3201 48th Avenue in Camrose, Alta., a city about 70 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

When asked why Capital City Casinos Ltd. is the listed applicant, an AGLC spokesperson told CBC News that any questions regarding the casino's ownership structure should be directed to Mayfield or Capital City Casinos Ltd.

The company is proposing to relocate the casino to a roughly 5,600-square-metre complex at 420 Parsons Road S.W., near Edmonton's Summerside neighbourhood, in the fall of 2024.

A plot of land with grass.
Capital City Casinos Ltd., which is listed as the relocation proposal applicant, would move the Camrose Casino to a plot of land at 420 Parsons Road S.W., in south Edmonton. (David Bajer/CBC)

The casino's current gaming capacity is 208 slot machines, 10 table games and four poker tables, according to the AGLC website. If the relocation proposal is approved, the casino's capacity would be an estimated 550 slot machines, 25 table games and two poker tables.

If relocated, it would also offer a show lounge and theatre; a 120-room hotel; a 1,400-square-metre entertainment and conference facility; and a purpose built sports wagering restaurant and bar, the proposal says.

Objections to the casino's relocation were due Wednesday. 

An AGLC spokesperson told CBC News Monday that the proposal application is currently in Step 2 of a three-step approval process.

The current stage requires an applicant — Capital City Casinos Ltd. — to issue public notices in their community and allows the public to provide feedback, the spokesperson explained, adding that the City of Edmonton and City of Camrose were notified.

The society told CBC News it was not consulted by the casino licensee, nor AGLC.

The society says it became aware of the possible relocation on July 22, when one of its board members found an advertisement in a newspaper.

Community organizations express concerns

The society, along with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and Edmonton Sport Council, are concerned about the potential consequences if the casino were to be relocated.

In its letter to AGLC, the society said that one job in Camrose is equivalent to 80 in the greater Edmonton area.

"The moving of the casino would cause a loss of jobs and economic spin off for Camrose," the letter said.

Meanwhile, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is concerned Edmonton-based charities will lose an estimated $6.7 million in revenue, through the casino's rural classification, the organization said in an open letter.

Under the proposal, Capital City Casino would stay in rural areas with the St. Albert Casino, an AGLC spokesperson told CBC News.

"Charities participating in charitable gaming events from both these casinos benefit from the combined proceeds," the spokesperson said.

Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely declined to comment because the application is underway. 

An AGLC spokesperson could not provide specific information on the feedback it has received.

A decision about the relocation is expected to come later this year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mrinali is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She has worked in newsrooms across the country in Toronto, Windsor and Fredericton. She has chased stories for CBC's The National, CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup and CBC News Network. Reach out at Mrinali.anchan@cbc.ca

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