Sudbury casino project gets zoning go-ahead, some still 'deeply concerned'
"We've made this project a lot better because of people's input," says Dario Zulich of continued opposition
Greater Sudbury is one step closer to getting a new casino after the city's planning committee gave the green light to a zoning application allowing Gateway Casinos to build a facility on the Kingsway.
But the city is going to have to work to get some Sudburians on board with the idea.
About 30 people took to the podium at a public input session Monday night. The majority were against allowing a new casino in the city.
That included Chris Duncanson-Hales, a Roman Catholic theologian at the University of Sudbury, who said he represents 45 interfaith leaders opposing the plan.
"Gambling is contrary to the ethical norms of our traditional," Duncanson-Hales told council. "We are deeply concerned that it will have a serious and disproportionately negative impact on vulnerable communities in close proximity to the Kingsway location."
The vulnerable communties, Duncanson-Hales said, include seniors in Finlandia and residents of low-income housing. Both groups, he said, are at risk of losing a disproportionate amount of money at casinos.
The location in question is a parcel of land owned by developer Dario Zulich, who requested that the property have its zoning designation changed to allow a "place of amusement."
Both Zulich and Gateway Casinos have expressed their interest in building on the vacant land, pending zoning approval.
Jeff MacIntyre, a downtown business owner and chair of Downtown Sudbury, who has been at the center of this push-back, said Gateway's promise of attracting more tourists with a casino is empty.
MacIntyre said with Gateway's announcement that it was taking over operations at Casino Rama, coupled with licenses to operate in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the company has created a "buffer" around Sudbury.
"There is no incentive for tourism [in Sudbury]. It's gone," MacIntyre said.
"For them to bring tourists from southern Ontario to northern Ontario makes no sense because they're driving right by other casinos, spending more money on gas that they could be spending at that casino. Or the one in North Bay. Or the Sault."
But Zulich, whose pitch to create an entertainment district was part of the catalyst for the city's decision to put its new arena on the Kingsway, said he takes all the criticism in stride.
Zulich was flanked by Gateway executives during the public input session, and didn't seem rattled by the criticism aimed his way.
"I'm proud of the people in the city, their passion," Zulich said. "Every citizen. That passion was felt in all the supporters, and all the people with comments."
"Every time someone has a comment, if it's not a favourable comment, I view it as an opportunity," Zulich said. "Whether it's parking, or access to the trail system, I have to give everybody credit. We've made this project a lot better because of people's input."
The decision isn't final yet. The resolutions made at last night's planning committee still have to go before city council on April 10.