Industry Reports

London’s $140 Million Casino Expansion Hangs in the Balance before Tuesday’s Final Vote

The proposed casino expansion at Western Fair District in London, Ontario, may be given the green light on Tuesday but for now, the $140 million project is still hanging in the balance after city officials narrowly approved the proposal. On Monday afternoon, the city’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee voted 7-5 in favour of gambling expansion, adding that the new casino, which is to be constructed by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, should remain in the Western Fair District.

Last year, Gateway announced plans to create and operate a full-fledged casino in the City of London, northwestern Ontario. Gateway is Canada’s largest gaming company and it currently operates more than 20 gambling facilities across British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Despite its successful partnership with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and local communities, it is still negotiating with the City of London over acquiring land for the construction of the new casino. In addition, until now, there has been no clear decision on whether gambling expansion should be allowed, although back in 2012, city officials said they would consider it.

After six years of discussions, yesterday, the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee voted in favour of gaming expansion in London. This decision, however, was made after heated debates over the location for the proposed casino. The Committee said the $142 million gambling facility should remain at the Western Fair District. It also decided to explore the opportunities for revenue sharing with the communities neighbouring London, so that the city could help with the treatment and prevention of problem gambling. The final vote on casino expansion, however, is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon when City Council will determine the future of gambling in London once and for all.

Gateway Still Needs City Approval to Move Ahead with the $142 Million Project

Gateway is currently negotiating with the City Hall and with Western Fair over the terms of the current lease at the Fair site. The company threatened to abandon the proposed site and move to another location as its agreement with the OLG is not binding it to the Western Fair District in London. In May 2017, Gateway took over the slot operations at the Western Fair Raceway after signing a 20-year casino operation and services agreement (COSA) with the OLG for becoming the primary provider of the Southwest Gaming Bundle.

The current lease of the OLG Slots at the Western Fair, however, costs Gateway $6 million a year, so the company is now in talks to strike a better deal. As the lease expires in 2020, the gambling operator may not be willing to build the new casino on the same land. It previously said that it prefers to own the land. Still, Monday’s approval of gaming expansion is a positive sign for the proposed casino complex that would have not only more gaming space, but it will also feature a hotel and restaurants.

The $142 million investment would transform the current OLG Slots at the Western Fair into a much larger and modern facility that would attract customers with diverse gaming and entertainment options. Currently, the slots parlour has around 750 slot machines as well as electronic table games such as blackjack and poker. The proposed casino would have 1,500 slots and approximately 50 tables for poker, blackjack, and roulette.