After almost three years of debates, the City Council of Sudbury, Ontario, voted Tuesday evening in favour of the rezoning procedure needed for the construction of the Kingsway Entertainment District. Although the casino project was approved, it would need to be given the green light by the court, as the battle between supporters and opponents of the new casino is now going to Ontario’s newly founded Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.
At the Greater Sudbury City Council meeting, which started 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, councillors passed an amendment of the Official Plan which included the rezoning of the land where the proposed casino and entertainment complex is supposed to be built. The council voted 11 to 2 in favour of the amendment and the only officials who voted against it were Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier. Last month, the city’s Planning Committee approved three rezoning applications filed by developer Dario Zulich which were for a casino, an arena, and a parking lot. With the council’s vote, the rezoning of the 20-hectare vacant lot on the Kingsway was ratified and is very likely to move the project forward.
The plans for the new complex, named Kingsway Entertainment District, include a casino, a hotel tower, and a CA$100-million concert arena. It is still unclear who would develop and operate the hotel, but the Boreal Hospitality Group and the Intercontinental Hotels Group said they are interested in the project. Gateway Casinos and Entertainment announced that it would be investing $60 million into the casino, which would replace the Slots Parlor at Sudbury Downs, a harness racing track. Currently operated by Gateway, the slots venue includes a little over 400 slots that would be relocated to the new gambling facility. In addition, the casino that would be built on a 6.96-hectare parcel of land would have three different restaurants.
The Stinging Attack against the Project Continues
Tuesday’s vote ended months of heated debate and harsh criticism against the Kingsway Entertainment District with various groups of society opposing the casino facility, in particular. The decision of Greater Sudbury City Council was taken after hours of discussion regarding the potential benefits and most of all, the potentially negative impacts of the proposed complex on the local community.
Previously expressed concerns were once again raised by casino opponents at last night’s meeting, including the criticism that no studies on the environmental and economic impact have been done. According to some people, the land treatment with salt for the parking lot may harm the city’s main source of drinking water, the Ramsey Lake. Others, including many health experts, express concern for the problem gambling rates in the area, which may see a dangerous spike with the opening of a new casino. In addition, the new gambling venue might have even a more dramatic impact on Sudbury’s poorer communities located in close proximity. This was one of the main issues pointed out a couple of weeks ago in a joint open letter by representatives of around 50 religious groups.
Anti-casino campaigners from the Casino Free Sudbury group released a report last month which focused on the risks Kingsway Entertainment District poses to the economy. The study, carried out by consultant company urbanMetrics, suggests that the casino may struggle to attract customers as it is located in a remote area. According to the findings, the only way the gambling facility would be able to generate some revenue is to divert revenue from other businesses in the city. This is why Tom Fortin who leads the Casino Free Sudbury group says that he and another 500 businessmen from the area are opposing the project. They are expected to file a notice of appeal in the province’s new authority on such matters, the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.