Sudbury

North Bay city council votes yes on casino, but will vote again on contentious question

North Bay city council has voted yes to a casino. At the end of a raucous meeting Wednesday night, council voted 8 to 3 to welcome a 31 million dollar gambling house planned by Gateway Casinos.

City council will vote again on casino question after motion of reconsideration tabled

Yet again, North Bay city council chambers was filled with citizens, some carrying turtle-shaped placards, to speak against the city's requests to the province to loosen environmental regulations. (Erik White/CBC)

For two hours, citizens of North Bay told city council why they didn't want a casino to come to town.

Some 20 people stepped up to the microphone during Wednesday night's council meeting, each speaking against plans by Gateway Casinos for a $31 million gambling facility to be built off Pinewood Park Drive, in the south end of the city.

And they kept on talking, even when it was time for city councillors to speak.

"We all want to see the city grow, we all want to see the city prosper," said city councillor Mac Bain, raising his voice to be heard over hecklers from the gallery.

"You may not believe that this is the right way to do it, but I do."

In the end, the majority of council believed that as well, voting 8-3 for the casino.

"You just killed North Bay!" someone shouted from the audience after the vote was taken.

However, councillor Mark King — one of the three votes against — did file a motion for reconsideration, which means city council will vote again on the casino question at an upcoming meeting.

Plans for a North Bay casino call for several restaurants, as well as 300 slot machines and 10 table games.

During the debate, several North Bay city councillors said they worried that if they voted no, the casino would be built in nearby towns such as Corbeil and Callander and that the city would then get all the social problems and none of the revenue.

"We can walk away from the 200 jobs, we can walk away from $31 million in commercial assessment ... and it'll go down the street," said Councillor Dave Mendicino.

But some councillors argued that the social costs wouldn't be worth the roughly $1 million share of the profits the city would receive every year. 

"Can we afford to give 96 per cent of our citizens gambling money to the province? I personally don't think so. Each dollar funnelled up is a dollar not spent in our community," said councillor Marcus Tignanelli. 

"To me it's clear that this is going to be a net loss for our community," said councillor Scott Roberston, one of three votes against. 

Gateway Casinos plans to build a $31 million gambling and entertainment complex in this wooded lot off Pinewood Park Drive in the south end of North Bay. (Erik White/CBC)

But Bill Vrebosch, who was recently elected to North Bay city council after years as the mayor of nearby East Ferris, said other casino towns report that gambling addiction dies down over time.

"The problems last for about one year, then it's a net gain," he said, not phased by hecklers shouting "That's a Lie!" 

"You can say what you like about it, we have to change the image of this city. It's been kind of a NIMBY city, where nothing you do, doesn't have somebody holding you back," he said.

City councillor Mike Anthony was more philosophical about his yes vote, saying he wasn't comfortable restricting someone in North Bay from doing something that was legal.

"This isn't about growth, or pro-business or pro-casino. My dilemma is that I am pro freedom of choice," he said.

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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