City council voted Wednesday to ask provincial regulators to allow a second gaming facility to operate in Ottawa alongside Rideau Carleton Raceway.
If the proposal is approved by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and others would be allowed to submit bids to construct a new casino while Rideau Carleton Raceway adds new gaming tables.
However, OLG officials previously argued Ottawa can only support one casino and already rejected Mayor Jim Watson’s request for a second “satellite” gaming facility in the city.
The province’s position pitted backers of Rideau Carleton Raceway against those who want to construct a casino elsewhere. Last week, a city committee voted in favour of a motion that would only allow a new gambling facility to be built if it was located at Rideau Carleton Raceway, shutting out prospective bids to build a gaming facility next to the Canadian Tire Centre, near the airport or anywhere else.
However, city councillors believed they struck a balance with Wednesday’s motion, which was supported by all members of council except Diane Deans.
It asks the province to create a separate gaming “zone” and request-for-proposals process for the Rideau Carleton Raceway alongside a bidding process for the rest of the city.
Several councillors argued it should be up to local officials, rather than Toronto-based bureaucrats, to determine how many gaming facilities the city can support. And the sentiment around the council table supported two casinos.
“This argument that Ottawa is too small from a population perspective is nonsense,” said Mr. Watson.
He compared Ottawa to other regions that were granted two zones. Niagara Falls, he said, has roughly one-tenth of Ottawa’s population. And while Toronto may have more people, it is geographically smaller than the nation’s capital.
While the mayor’s earlier request for a second satellite gaming facility was turned down, he said he hoped a motion backed by council would carry more weight with the province.
In a written statement, an OLG spokesperson said the agency "is aware of council's resolution" and will review it with government officials when it is formally received.
If approved, the matter would be returned to the city’s finance and economic development committee for further debate and public comments.
If rejected, the city would default to its position of only allowing construction of a new casino if it is located at Rideau Carleton Raceway.