Zulich sees casino as key part of his entertainment development plans for Sudbury

Sudbury developer Dario Zulich is once again considering building a casino as part of his east end entertainment district. He is trying to convince the city to build a new arena and motorsports park on his land off the Kingsway.

Sudbury city council will now have to vote on casino plans

A roulette table with black and red numbered squares is pictured.
Developer Dario Zulich is hoping the new private operator chosen to run the casino in Sudbury will choose his land off the Kingsway, but he needs city approval first. (CBC)

Dario Zulich looks at the bushland he owns off the Kingsway and imagines a 5,000 seat arena, a car racing track and a casino resort.

Gambling was originally left out of his plans in 2014 when he applied to have those lands re-zoned from industrial to allow a wide range of entertainment uses, including a water park, which was a pet project of then Mayor Marianne Matichuk.

Zulich says he had removed the gambling portion from his development proposal because of how slow Ontario Lottery and Gaming was moving on its casino expansion plans at the time.

"Just recently and unbelievably the casino movement by the OLG has accelerated and almost even surpassed the timeline in terms of the arena," Zulich said.

He says he has met with several private companies bidding to operate five casinos in northern Ontario on behalf of the province and says all of them want to be part of a larger resort setting.

Zulich is now applying again to have his property zoned for a possible casino.

"It is an eventuality that it's coming," he said. "So, like it or not, what we should do is make sure it helps us."

The request will come to a vote at the city's planning committee and ultimately city council.

Dario Zulich wants to turn this vacant land off the Kingsway into an "entertainment district" with a casino resort, car racing track and new arena for his Sudbury Wolves. (Erik White/CBC)

'Try and put the politics aside'

There is definitely opposition to expanding casino gambling in Sudbury, who will speak up when that decision comes before councillors.

John Lindsay, with the group called No Casino Sudbury, says the city's small cut of gaming proceeds and a handful of new jobs that would come with a casino just isn't worth the money being "vacuumed" out of Sudbury.

"So, if you take $50 million out of the community and you get $15 million back, how does that help us economically?" he questioned.

Lindsay's group has lobbied for the casino to remain at Sudbury Downs, in Azilda, however he says they would really prefer prohibition.

Former city councillor and planning chair, Frances Caldarelli says it will be tough for council to focus on land use planning and not on the larger issue of gambling.

"As much as we try to distance ourselves from political decisions, you can't ignore there is a political point of view in a decision like this," Caldarelli said.

"Look at what is best for the community and try and put the politics aside."

The final decision could be overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board, if it can be shown that other factors influenced council.

Even if Zulich gets the greenlight, the decision on whether or not Sudbury even gets a new casino rests with the private operator being chosen by the province.

The new private company chosen to run the 5 casinos in northern Ontario could move the casino from the Sudbury Downs in Azilda or keep it where it is.