The City of London in Ontario, Canada, may soon be home to one of the largest and most diverse gaming facilities in the province as the project for a new casino was finally given the thumbs up at City Hall. On Tuesday, councillors voted 9-5 in favour of gambling expansion in the city and passed another two motions regarding the new casino location and the prevention of problem gambling.
Following Monday’s public meeting where London’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee endorsed expanded gambling, the City Council gave official permission for increased gaming options within the community. This includes up to 1,200 slot machines and 50 table games to be offered in London, which is currently home to the OLG Slots at the Western Fair District. It hosts more than 700 slot machines and various electronic table games such as poker or blackjack. The old Slots Parlour, however, can now be replaced by a new and larger facility, which would offer more slot machines and gaming tables with dealers.
The City Council approval allows for the construction of a casino complex proposed by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, the primary service provider of OLG’s Southwest Gaming Bundle, which includes OLG Slots at Western Fair District, now called Gateway Casinos London. Along with London’s only gaming facility, Gateway took over the operations of several other gambling facilities owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), namely the OLG Slots at the racetracks in Clinton, Dresden, Hanover, and Woodstock, as well as the OLG Casino Point Edward.
The Casino Operating and Services Agreement between the gambling operator and OLG was signed in May 2017 and according to it, Gateway is responsible for all day-to-day operations and assets at these facilities for the next 20 years. In fact, with the expansion in Ontario, the company became the largest gambling and entertainment provider in Canada. Now, it proposes to build a new casino at the Western Fair District which would cost an impressive investment of around CA$142 million. In order for the project to moves ahead, however, it needs more permits from the municipality and the province. In addition, Gateway is now in negotiations for land acquisition at the Western Fair site.
Problem Gambling Risks Recognized
On Tuesday, London’s City Council approved the idea of casino expansion and voted 13-1 in favour of the proposed location for the new casino. Although not a binding vote, this decision clearly showed city officials’ preference for the Western Fair District as the site for future gaming expansion. According to Gateway’s plan, the new casino complex would be located at the site of the Slots Parlour, for which the company currently pays the Western Fair $6 million a year. However, Gateway claims that a cheaper lease deal would allow it to pump $142 million into the new project.
Apart from the discussions and decisions made in regards to the gaming expansion and the best location for a full-fledged casino, the City Council also passed a motion to investigate the opportunities for casino revenue to be used for helping the community. The civic administration will need to report back on how the potential risks from increased gambling can be eliminated. According to city politicians, London can use its share from the casino revenue for mitigating the harms from gambling on the local community. This includes prevention of gambling addictions, as well as research and treatment of problem gambling.