Community group calls for casino referendum

A community group is circulating an online petition to ask for a referendum on whether a new casino should be built in Ottawa.

Friends of Downtown Ottawa soliciting support via online petition

The OLG has signaled its intention to expand gaming in the province. (Canadian Press)

A community group is circulating an online petition to ask for a referendum on whether a new casino should be built in Ottawa.

In March the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. signalled its intention to solicit bids for new casinos across the province, including Ottawa.

While there are no concrete plans for a new casino in Ottawa, Friends of Downtown Ottawa want to give residents a say before any concrete proposal or venue is decided.

From the group's website: "We firmly believe a decision of this nature must be left to members of the public to decide through a site specific referendum, either as part of the next scheduled municipal election in 2014 or as a special referendum."

Athos Sani of south Ottawa said the group wants an informed discussion to take place about any potential plan before it reaches a formal stage.

He said the group wants the proponents of any plan to discuss its merits and the possible downsides, such as traffic and social concerns.

"Presumably the mayor's office assumes that there's an economic and financial benefit," Sani said. "It's up to them to demonstrate that benefit because, again, there is no benefit if the revenue generated by the casino is simply displaced from revenue that would be raised from other sources."

Sani said some local businesses might see their incomes drop.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury of Rideau-Vanier said he's happy to see that people raising questions now, but he's unsure about holding a referendum when no concrete plans are in place.

"Until those are articulated it's hard to establish what's the process," Fleury said. "Are we asking every councillor to go back in their community association and get a sense and are we coming back and having a vote? I mean, that process is still not clear to me."