New casino in Sudbury depends on where city builds new arena, says operator

Gateway Casinos has signed a letter of intent that would see a multi-million dollar gambling and entertainment complex built on the Kingsway in Sudbury.

Casino would be neighbours with proposed arena, motorsports park and hotel

Gateway Casinos plans to build a new $60 million complex on the Kingsway, replacing the existing casino at Sudbury Downs. (CBC)

Gateway Casinos has signed a letter of intent to add a new casino to the entertainment complex that Dario Zulich and his partners are planning to build on the Kingsway in Sudbury.

But spokesperson Carrie Kormos says Gateway, which just recently took over operation of the northern Ontario casinos from the province, says her company is waiting to see where the city decides to build a new arena.

"We think it makes sense to put these two major investments on the same piece of property," Kormos says.

"But we're going to let the city go through their process and see where they ultimately decide to put the event centre and then we'll be able to make some final decisions."

She says that could "possibly" mean the casino staying at the old Sudbury Downs horsetrack in Azilda, where it's been for nearly 20 years, or Gateway might look at another location, if the arena is built elsewhere.

Gateway is planning a $60 million facility, with the potential for 250 new jobs being created working at bars, restaurants and on a "spectacular gaming floor."

The "temporary" casino opened in Sault Ste. Marie in 1999. It currently attracts about 1,700 visitors a day and brings in $20.6 million in revenue, but both of those numbers have been steadily declining in recent years.

The company, which has operated casinos in western Canada for years, says it expects the new casino to open in 2020, following all the necessary approvals from the provincial and municipal governments.

It started running day-to-day operations at the Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie casinos on May 30. Its agreement with the province also calls for new casinos to be built in North Bay and Kenora.

"We are working through plans for all of the communities that we operate in," says Kormos, adding that the company is currently focused on transitioning employees who used to work for Ontario Lottery and Gaming over to Gateway.

When asked if the other northern cities would get a similar facility to Sudbury, Kormos says that "absolutely they would be different."

This land off the Kingsway has been chosen as a future site for a $60 million casino, as well as a proposed 6,000 seat arena and professional racetrack. (Erik White/CBC)

This is an important step in the plans for the True North project which is hoping to include a hotel, convention centre, motorsports park and 6,000 seat event centre arena on its property on the Kingsway, not far from Moonlight Beach.

Andrew Dale, the vice president of marketing for the Sudbury Wolves and True North Strong, said his group is "excited" with the prospect of working with a great "tenant" like Gateway.

 "This is a great step forward and we're quite excited about the arrangements and such a great partner who understands their market and would be a great group to work with," said Dale, who said he's unable to go into the details of the deal.

Sudbury city council is expected to discuss a location for a new main arena later this month, with the Kingsway property and the downtown seen as the main two contenders at this point.

Dale said a new arena might be ready to open next door to a new casino in 2020.

"I think that would be the goal, I think that would be reasonable to try to tie things up together," he said.