Results from a new online survey show that the majority of London residents support the proposed casino expansion in the Western Fair District. The newly presented data will be discussed next week by the City Council, which could approve Gateway’s project, taking into account city staff recommendations and public support.
According to an informal survey carried out over the Internet, 69 per cent of people living in London, Ontario, are in favour of expanded gaming options at the existing Western Fair casino. A total of 727 people took part in the survey in March and although its results cannot be considered scientifically correct, they are a good indication of the general public opinion. When it comes to the reasons for supporting the planned expansion, people cited economic impact, new jobs, and more entertainment options in the City of London.
Interestingly, the results are in contrast with an older poll where 70 per cent of residents voted against a casino in London. However, this was more than 20 years ago, in 1997 when people were asked about their attitude towards building a gambling venue during the civic election. According to the March 2018 survey, only 31 per cent of residents are against the project proposed by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, the company currently operating the Western Fair OLG Slots. More than half of those who oppose the concept (62%) say that it would have a negative impact on the community.
The casino expansion, which would see the addition of more slot machines and the introduction of table games, has been discussed for about a year. Gateway Casinos say the talks with the city are taking too much time and with negotiations going at such a slow pace, the project might not be as attractive as other alternatives. Last week, Rob Mitchell, a spokesperson for Gateway Casino and Entertainment, said that the company has offered “voluntary exit incentives” to all 250 employees at the Western Fair OLG Slots. According to him, Gateway may be forced to announce layoffs next month due to the stalled talks with Western Fair District regarding the CA$140 million project for expansion.
Would London City Council Give Expansion the Green Light?
Last year, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment was approved by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) as the service operator for the North and Southwest Gaming Bundles. In May, it effectively took over the day-to-day operations at the Western Fair OLG Slots. The 20-year agreement includes casino expansion, which may take place at the Western Fair site or somewhere else. The company is now trying to procure land there for its initial plan that included a $140 million investment.
According to the proposal, the company would add a hotel and restaurants, while the new casino would have 1,500 slot machines and around 50 gaming tables where visitors would be able to play poker, blackjack, and roulette. Currently, there are a little over 730 machines available at OLG Slots parlour at the Western Fair District.
At the public meeting at City Hall scheduled for Monday, the strategic planning and priorities committee will review all existing data about the project, including the results of the online survey. City staff is recommending that councillors approve the expansion due to the fact that London is already home to the OLG Slots. The Council is expected to vote Monday or Tuesday, so a decision regarding the expansion will be made soon.