Sweeter casino deal coming to Ottawa: Watson

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Mark Brownlee
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Mayor Jim Watson says he expects the city to receive more money from an Ottawa casino after the provincial government unveiled on Friday a new method of dividing up the facility’s profits.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

“It looks like it would mean additional funds for the city because they’re now projecting a percentage of the income from the table games, which was not part of the original agreement,” said Mr. Watson.

He doesn’t know exactly how much more the new formula would produce but anticipated it would be higher than the roughly $5 million a year the city was previously set to receive.

He said staff is currently reviewing the documents the organization responsible for gambling in the province, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., sent to them.

In a media statement, OLG said the changes would result in the city keeping four per cent of the revenues generated from table games.

With this addition, Ottawa could receive more than $11 million in 2017-18, OLG said.

City council voted last fall to agree in principle to have a casino somewhere in Ottawa. OLG will select a winning bid from the companies interested in building the facility, to which council will then be able to say yes or no.

However the process is currently up in the air.

OLG’s entire board of governors resigned after the province requested the resignation the organization’s chairman, Paul Godfrey, this week. Mr. Godfrey was the architect of OLG’s expansion plans, which included the decision to construct a number of casinos across the province.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has expressed publicly her disappointment about the direction in which the OLG is going.

Mr. Watson said he’s unclear about what the changes will mean for the current plan to bring a casino to Ottawa, but he was optimistic it would only make it easier to work with the OLG on the project.

“This is a big wrench into the process when the whole board resigns and the CEO is replaced,” said Mr. Watson. “I’ve said all along I haven’t been overwhelmed by how this has rolled out. I think there’s been a lot of mixed messages.”

He said he was particularly disappointed with the controversy – which led in part to Mr. Godfrey’s removal – over whether certain cities in the province would get a special deal for hosting a casino.

Mr. Watson sent a letter to the OLG in March threatening to pull out of the process to bring a gaming facility to the city if Ottawa didn’t get the same funding formula as other municipalities.

He was reacting to a report in the Globe and Mail which said the OLG planned to give Toronto a special deal if it agreed to host a facility.

This prompted Ms. Wynne to issue a public statement saying all municipalities were going to get the same deal.

“There’s no question I’ve been frustrated...maybe with a new CEO and a new board there might be a greater sense of clarity among the various partners.”

Mr. Watson said he also wants to make sure that Rideau-Carleton Raceway still has “a role” once a new casino goes in.

OLG has previously said it only wants to have one gaming facility in the city.

Organizations: Ontario Lottery and Gaming, Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Ottawa, Toronto

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