Industry Reports

Business Group Funds Kingsway Casino Project Appeal with City-Sanctioned Money

A business group representing all businesses in downtown Sudbury will be filing an appeal against the casino and entertainment project on the Kingsway. Last month, Greater Sudbury City Council approved the ambitious project that will include a modern casino, a hotel, and a large concert arena. On Tuesday, councillors voted in favour of the business association’s budget, CA$20 million of which was earmarked to fund an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

The casino and arena will part of the planned Kingsway Entertainment District, a 20-hectare retail and entertainment complex, which will also have a hotel tower, retail outlets and several restaurants and bars. Since City Council approved the rezoning applications for the casino, arena and parking on April 10, the project received a lot of criticism from the community. The latest group to declare its opposition to the plans was Downtown Sudbury, the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) Association. Previously, it announced its support for the appeal filed by another opposing group, called Casino-Free Sudbury. Now, the BIA has decided to help fight the project in court.

This is a non-profit association of business and property owners in downtown that is self-funded, which means that its budget comes from the taxes it collects from its members. The purpose of such BIAs is to oversee the economic development and the improvement of municipally owned property and to promote different areas’ as business and retail destinations. Before being put to use, however, the association’s budget needs to receive approval by the City Council. After heated debates that continued for several hours, the Greater Sudbury City Council ratified the BIA’s annual budget for 2018 worth $534 million.

Following what they believe to be in Sudbury’s best interest, city staff had recommended that councillors remove from the BIA’s 2018 budget the $20 million pegged for filing an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The organization is named as one of the appellants on an appeal filed by Tom Fortin, head of the Casino-Free Sudbury. With an 8-3 vote, however, councillors largely ignored that and approved the budget of the business association.

BIA Overstepping Its Mandate?

Under the rules governing the functions of BIAs, the association is not authorized to take City Council’s decisions to court. The law, however, does not specifically say that the BIA cannot file appeals against the city it operates under. During the Council’s meeting on Tuesday, some expressed doubts regarding the functions and purposes of this type of associations. According to Coun. Robert Kirwan, who voted against the budget, Downtown Sudbury BIA should not spend its money on legal battles against the city. He said that the association of business owners was stepping outside its authority and he had decided to propose a motion that would redefine the BIAs or even dissolve it.

Moreover, the group is responsible for Downtown, while the Kingsway Entertainment District is not located there, a fact that was reminded during the meeting. The project includes a casino that is to be developed by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment and hospitality companies in Canada. According to Gateway’s plans, the gambling facility will require an investment of $60 million and will be developed on a 6,96-hectare parcel. The casino will replace the existing Slots Parlour at the harness racing track Sudbury Downs. Currently, the slots venue, operated by Gateway, has around 400 slots and the new facility on the Kingsway is expected to offer patrons many more gaming options.