Lac-Leamy to lose millions of dollars to Hard Rock Ottawa: report

Hard Rock

Several of Ottawa’s leading business organizations are throwing their support behind the Hard Rock Ottawa casino, a redevelopment that could see millions of dollars swing back across the river from its Gatineau competitor, according to a recent report.

Local consultants Shore-Tanner and Associates prepared an economic impact study detailing the anticipated revenues, jobs and other benefits that will arise from the $318-million joint venture between Hard Rock and the Rideau Carleton Raceway.

The report included estimates that the redeveloped raceway, which will feature a hotel, 2,500 seat theatre and 20 more gaming tables, could transfer as much as $62 million in revenues from Gatineau’s Casino Lac-Leamy to the Ottawa-based complex.

To put that figure in context, Casino Lac-Leamy’s revenues in 2016-17 totalled $257.4 million, up 5.2 per cent from $244.7 million the previous year

The Shore-Tanner report couches its $62 million estimate slightly, suggesting the exact number comes mostly from hearsay, but says the sheer number of Ottawan visitors to Lac-Leamy annually make certain that Hard Rock Ottawa would recapture “millions.”

The new gaming and entertainment complex would also create a wave of economic benefits. More than 3,500 jobs would be created for the facility’s redevelopment with an additional 500 ongoing jobs to run the casino. More jobs from manufacturing, transportation and supplies related to the project could also be created in Ottawa.

The consultants estimate that total leisure and entertainment spending in Ottawa for 2018 will reach $8.58 billion, a figure expected to increase annually by roughly $400 million over the coming decade. The area’s spending on games of chance in 2018 is projected to be roughly $251.2 million.

Side pot

The secondary benefits in tourism and related industries have earned the support of some of the city’s business leaders. Shore-Tanner interviewed representatives from the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa, the EY and Shaw centres and the Ottawa International Airport and said Hard Rock Ottawa got a thumb’s up from all.

Invest Ottawa’s Blair Patacairk indicated that the new casino complex would help the regional economic development agency to attract high-tech talent to the city. The organization has leaned on Ottawa’s cultural elements as a selling point for capital relocations in the past.

While it’s no surprise that economic development organizations would support a $318-million redevelopment project, the positive feedback from a lengthy list of the city’s most prominent business associations is a noteworthy endorsement ahead of several key votes at City Hall.

The report is slated to be formally tabled at next Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s finance and economic development committee.

City council previously directed staff to provide an analysis of the potential benefits and impacts of an expanded gaming facility in Ottawa. The city has hired KPMG to conduct its review of the Shore-Tanner report commissioned by Hard Rock and will report back on that analysis at a later date.

Separately, the city’s agriculture and rural affairs committee is slated to review Hard Rock’s rezoning application at its meeting on May 3.