Hamilton businessman submits casino proposal

PJ Mercanti of Carmen's will present a proposal for a casino in February.

A local businessman has submitted a proposal to the city for a casino in Hamilton.

PJ Mercanti, co-owner of Carmen’s Group, has requested to speak in front of the city’s general issues committee in February.

According to Mercanti’s request, a "group of Hamilton business leaders, developers and education professionals, as well as an executive from a respected entertainment company" are involved in the proposal.

The proposed facility, the request suggests, "could possibly include hotel amenities, gaming entertainment, multiple dining options, nightlife experiences, live shows, luxury retail offerings and museum attractions."

Tim McCabe, general manager of the city’s department of planning and economic development, told councillors that Carmen’s had been discussing a proposal, which has yet been made public.

The city has until March 1 to tell the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission whether it wants a gaming facility, and if it does, where it could be located.

Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark expressed his concern that council would have too little time to consider the merits of the proposal. He also asked his fellow councillors and city staff whether any of them had spoken to any applicant about conditions that council has discussed for approving a downtown casino.

No one replied that they had.

Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson said he was frustrated about not knowing how many slots and tables have been proposed for a downtown casino, and particularly, how much revenue city coffers would take in from the facility.

 "It's The Price is Right," he said, invoking the long-running game show. "We need to know the number."

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation is one of several casino operators that expressed interest in operating a Toronto gaming facility. When contacted by CBC Hamilton on Monday, the company said it's still looking at specific locations for possible casinos.

"What we can say is we've been looking at Ontario from a portfolio approach in terms of the possibility of acquiring a municipal licence," he said. "Hamilton is one of 25 licences in play."

MGM Grand International is also interested in Toronto. As for Hamilton, "Right now, MGM is focused on a Toronto casino," said Alan Feldman, senior vice-president of public affairs, in an email.

CBC Hamilton reporter Cory Ruf live-blogged from the meeting: