They can continue sending their money across the Ottawa River to the Casino du Lac Leamy in Quebec. They can drive out to a modernized Rideau Carleton Raceway in the south end. Or they can construct a new centrally located casino.
That's according to Paul Godfrey, the chairman of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., who outlined his vision for modernizing gambling in Ontario in a breakfast speech co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
"We need to be where our customers are," he said, emphasizing that the key decisions will be made by city council.
Ottawa is one of 29 geographic zones in the province that could see a new casino. A request for information was issued last week by the OLG to determine potential private-sector interest.
"What we see is a greater role of regulated private involvement," Mr. Godfrey said.
Although many debates exist about the potential downsides of a casino - crime and gambling addictions being a couple Mr. Godfrey mentioned - the financial benefits are obvious. Casinos create jobs as well as spur economic growth, tourism and community pride, Mr. Godfrey said, noting Ontario's casinos bring in $7 billion each year, $2 billion of which goes to the province.
By comparison, the annual revenues of all 30 major league baseball teams total $6.5 billion, according to Mr. Godfrey, former CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Rideau Carleton Raceway on Albion Road 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.
Although Ontario casinos create high revenues, it is a dwindling success, Mr. Godfrey said. In 2000, Ontario's most successful casinos in Niagara Falls and Windsor generated $800 million in revenues. Last year, they made $100 million - hence the need to revitalize the industry.
Along with gaming houses, the province is also looking at updating other government-run gambling systems.
Lottery tickets, for example, remain paper-based in a digital world, which is why the OLG is launching a revitalization effort to bring Ontario's gambling and gaming industry into the 21st century.
Online Bingo will be available to Ontario residents in early 2013, with more online gaming options to follow, Mr. Godfrey said. Safety mechanisms will prevent underage gambling, he added.
Similar changes could benefit the newspaper industry as well, said Mr. Godfrey who is also the CEO of media organization Postmedia Network, which owns 11 English-language daily newspapers.
A law implemented 65 years ago by the federal government states that all Canadian newspapers must be owned by Canadians in order for their advertisers to benefit from federal tax deductions. If there is any foreign ownership, 75 per cent needs to remain Canadian for private publications and 50.1 per cent for public ones.
But with the increasing presence of online giants such as Google, Facebook and the Huffington Post, the same rules don't apply and much of the revenues that used to go to Canadian newspapers are now bleeding onto the unregulated Internet.
In order to keep Canadian newspapers competitive, the government either needs to change the outdated law or enforce the same rules for online advertising by Canadian companies.
"It may have worked then, but it doesn't work today," said Mr. Godfrey of the foreign ownership rules. "There isn't a level playing field."
Mr. Godfrey said he has faith that both the newspaper industry and the OLG can remain relevant and competitive in the current market if the necessary changes are made.
Much more information will become available in the coming weeks about potential OLG casino changes, he said.
"Gaming and gambling are part of the fabric of the world today," he said in closing.