The owner of the Ottawa Senators is warning that Mayor Jim Watson’s promise to vote against a casino in Kanata “doesn’t bode well” for his future in the city.
© Cindy Pierson Dulay / http://www.horse-races.net
Mr. Melnyk spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since the mayor announced he would only support a casino in Ottawa if it’s built at the Rideau Carleton Raceway southeast of downtown.
The Senators’ owner said he put significant time and resources into following the proper process for bringing a casino to the area around the Senators’ arena.
”I played by the rules and all of a sudden they’re saying ‘those rules don’t really count,’” said Mr. Melnyk, speaking to reporters Tuesday. “I’m very disillusioned right now and it’s not a pleasant thing to deal with but I’ve got to deal with it because you can’t operate in a one-way street and that’s what that is right now.
“Unless things change, it doesn’t bode well for my continued investment here at all.”
Mr. Melnyk did not identify which specific ventures could be affected.
He said he has been working on preparing a document that’s five inches thick to present to the provincial agency responsible for gambling, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., as part of its request for proposals process.
The OLG will choose the winning bidder and it will then be left up to city councillors to decide whether to approve or reject the location that is selected for them.
Mr. Watson initially left the location for the casino open when councillors last fall approved in principle the idea of having a gaming facility somewhere in Ottawa.
Everyone was surprised, however, when he announced in early June he would only allow the casino to be built if OLG chooses Rideau Carleton as the site.
The decision blindsided Mr. Melnyk and prompted him to take the unusual route of putting out a press release expressing his outrage at the decision.
Mr. Melnyk said he plans to meet soon with the mayor, whom he said he has known for 10 years, to “right a wrong” on the issue.
The Senators owner believes a casino near the arena – which the team announced on Tuesday will soon be known as the Canadian Tire Centre – would have helped fill the building every night.
”The cross-pollination of getting people into the arena would solve a lot of our marketing problems,” he said.
Mr. Melnyk said he has three partners in place who would have been responsible for building the casino on his land.
”I’m hoping that cooler heads prevail and that they move this towards at the very least a fair, balanced process and not a single-sourced decision that’s being made right now,” he said.
Mr. Watson’s motion to only approve a casino at Rideau Carleton is scheduled to be debated at the finance and economic development committee, which he chairs, in July.