Sudbury’s casino expansion dispute got a little more on and off last week. The Star polled city councilors whether they are to throw their weight behind Gateway’s $60 million gambling expansion project, which aims at turning the 18-year old slots at Sudbury Downs into a full-blown gambling complex, including a $100 million city-owned arena. Only 6 councilors expressed their opinion regarding the upcoming gambling venue, but they looked at things from all possible angles. Some of them thumbed up the casino expansion, while others clearly expressed their reluctance to support a new entertainment complex. They also raised many important questions, which are expected to be answered in a timely manner.
In December last year, Ontario Lottery Gaming Corp. (OLG) selected Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd. as a service provider to take control over the operations and the assets of the North and Southwest Gaming Bundles. This move came as part of the modernization of OLG’s casino operations. As a result, Gateway has become the largest and most diversified casino operator in Canada. Besides all other gambling venues, the North Gaming Bundle includes also the slots in Sudbury (at Sudbury Downs).
Last week, the Star polled all the city councilors, who could publicly express their stance on a new casino and arena. Only 6 councilors participated in the poll, but the problem has been examined from a number of aspects. But regardless of their opinion, the city councilors provided detailed comments.
What Does the Opinion Poll Say
The general opposition towards the expansion Sudbury Downs explained that casino expansion offers short-term benefits. The outright opponents of the full-fledged casino complex, including Coun. Mark Signoretti (Ward 1) and Coun. Michael Vagnini (Ward 2), explained that the casino complex will not contribute to the city’s economic growth, but even the opposite. Signoretti elaborated that the gambling complex is to siphon off money from the city.
He explained that the presence of an entertainment complex in Sudbury will not attract the attention of that many out-of-the-city people. Consequently, the gambling complex will be visited mostly by locals. Hence, local people will start to gamble away their money, which means that they will have less money to spend on other things. In other words, the small- and medium-sized business is to suffer negative economic consequences. It is interesting to note that many local business units joined a lobby group called Casino Free Sudbury. Furthermore, such a gambling complex is to increase gambling-related issues among people. Vagnini added that the city has other major priorities such as fixing the infrastructure and improving essential services.
The proponents of the casino expansion, including Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac (Ward 4), Coun. Robert Kirwan (Ward 5) and Coun. Lynne Reynolds (Ward 11), focused their attention on the plenty of economic benefits. Undoubtedly, the casino supporters have an ace up their sleeve and that is the large tax revenues for the government. They also took the opportunity to remind that the presence of a gambling complex is to decrease the unemployment rate, which is to stir economic activity. This, on the other hand, is to foster local economic developments.
Coun. Gerry Montpellier, a representative of Ward 3, said that there are still a lot of important questions, which are waiting for answers. He pointed out that Gateway is a newcomer in Sudbury, so the city councilors cannot be sure if Gateway will be a good corporate citizen. In conclusion, there is still plenty of room for discussion on this issue, but it is almost impossible for a whole lot of people to be on the same page.