Mr. Watson tweeted about the benefits that a gaming facility could bring to the region, and then issued a press release to lay out a two-step process on how to proceed.
That press release, which included statements of support from Ottawa’s Chamber of Commerce and lead tourism marketing agency, highlighted how gaming dollars are currently crossing the Ottawa River to the Casino du Lac Leamy, supporting the Quebec government
“Every Ottawa dollar spent at the Gatineau casino is a dollar lost for Ottawa taxpayers,” stated Mr. Watson.
“It is time that we repatriate that money and use it to create jobs here in Ottawa. With infrastructure challenges and federal job cuts in Ottawa, we cannot miss out on a tremendous opportunity like this.”
Mr. Watson proposed dividing any gaming revenues coming back to the city between infrastructure renewal and economic development initiatives.
A staff report will be discussed at the next finance and economic development committee meeting on Oct. 2, where the public can provide feedback.
If council approves the report, Mr. Watson will write a letter to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission to signal the city would support a gaming facility in principle, allowing the OLG to issue a request for proposals this fall inviting proponents to submit bids.
Once the RFP process is completed and a winning bidder is selected, the public would have the opportunity to provide more feedback at a future city committee meeting in 2013.
The city statement said the upcoming staff report does not tie the city to a specific location or area for a casino and adds that there are currently no sites proposed or shortlisted by the OLG.
City officials note that while the process will be driven by the OLG, “city council holds the final approval on zoning for a gaming facility.”
Mr. Watson’s proposal sparked interest among some in the city’s tourism industry. Officials at the Ottawa Convention Centre called in “exciting” on Twitter, while Ottawa Tourism CEO Noel Buckley said a new casino would bring new visitors to the city.
“We know that a gaming facility can be a popular tourism attraction and demand generator,” he said in a statement.
“A gaming facility has the potential to allow the city and residents the opportunity to realize additional economic benefits while also providing new entertainment options for both leisure and convention visitors.”
Ottawa was identified by the OLG earlier this year as a possible host city for a new gaming facility as it looks to modernize gaming across the province.
The Rideau Carleton Raceway on Albion Road currently holds 1,250 slot machines and made $139.6 million in gaming revenues in fiscal 2012, plus $100,000 in non-gaming revenues, according to an OLG document. It attracted 1.8 million visitors in its fiscal 2012 year.
The agency is only interested in owning one major casino in Ottawa that holds up to 2,000 slot machines, which means that if another location is selected, the Rideau Carleton Raceway would no longer include a gaming area.
Mr. Watson stated that he will encourage the OLG to run a fair, competitive process providing all proponents – including the Rideau Carleton Raceway – an opportunity to compete.