St. John's casino a long shot
Finance minister wants to keep N.L. casino-free
A company trying to sell a high-profile hotel in St. John's says the property would make a good casino, but politicians are cool to the idea.
Real estate agency Colliers International has listed the Battery Hotel and Suites for $15 million, while touting the property — which sits near the base of Signal Hill, and has a commanding view of St. John's — as an attractive site for a casino.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Atlantic Canada without a casino. Finance Minister Tom Marshall plans to keep it that way.
"Our policy doesn't permit casinos in the province. There's been no change in that policy," Marshall told reporters Tuesday.
Asked whether there was any possibility he might reconsider the policy if an application were submitted, Marshall replied, "No."
Brochure touts casino possibility
A sales brochure prepared by Colliers International promotes the possibility of a casino.
"Newfoundland is one of only two Canadian provinces that does not have a provincially approved casino. If this highly interesting situation changes, the site is sufficiently large to accommodate a Class A casino and hotel," the brochure says.
"The unobstructed, elevated harbour view provides an unmatched setting for this type of development."
St. John's Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff said it would be premature for any potential buyer to assume a casino would fly in St. John's.
"I wouldn't like to call it false advertising, because [that's] probably a little strong, but certainly it's misleading to suggest to any potential buyer that that would be an easy run, if that's what they wanted to do," Duff told CBC News.
Public consultation required
Duff said any proposal for a casino would have to go through very broad public consultation "and we're not even close to being there yet."
Randy Follett, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Association, said a casino concept would be a hard sell.
"Corporate tax gains for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador [are] overshadowed by gambling tax gains," Follett said in an interview. "Whether or not gambling would be accepted like that at a casino level still remains to be seen."
U.S. property developer Rick Butler bought the Battery complex, which sits on about 1.8 hectares, in 2005 and later submitted a proposal to demolish the existing complex. He envisioned a 10-story complex of hotel rooms and condominiums.
The plan was halted after local residents campaigned against it.