The Town of Ajax is apparently losing the battle with its neighbour, Pickering, over which community should have a full-fledged casino within a year or two. On Tuesday, the Divisional Court dismissed an appeal filed by Ajax against the Durham Live in Pickering, which means the casino project can now move forward.
In April, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. officially announced the development of a gambling and entertainment centre in Pickering, called Durham Live. However, the campaign for building a casino in the city had started back in 2017, when many city councillors and even Mayor Dave Ryan declared their support for the project. If Durham Live opens in 2019, as planned, the existing Ajax facility would need to close. According to provincial rules, the Durham Region can have only one gaming venue and the current operator of Ajax’s casino has chosen Pickering for the new venue.
Durham Live, as it would be called, is designed to be much more than a casino. It would be built at Church and Bayly Streets, which means it would be almost on the border between Ajax and Pickering. Along with the gaming floor, it would have a convention centre, at least two hotels, and a water park, as well as office space and even a film studio. It seems the project is envisioned as a large-scale gaming, entertainment and cultural centre that would bring in a large number of tourists to the region. In addition, it would generate around $20 million to $25 million annually in hosting fees to the city.
Meanwhile, the Town of Ajax does not want to lose its casino as it also fills up city coffers and provides hundreds of jobs to the area. It appealed a ruling issued last year by the Ontario Municipal Board, which gave the Pickering project the green light.
Serious Concerns Still Exist, Ajax Says
Although Ajax’s appeal was dismissed by the court on Tuesday, the town plans to continue the fight for keeping its gaming facility. It claims it is one of the most successful casinos in North America, although as a host community, it receives an annual payment of up to $7 million from the venue. While this is not much, this share of the gaming revenue is, apparently attractive enough for Ajax. The town is now urging the province to take action and investigate the casino deal that allowed Great Canadian to acquire all gaming facilities in the region from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
Ajax now issued a statement, in which it says there are still serious concerns that need to be addressed such as the negative impact of the casino on the historic Pickering Village. Some experts also warn that the proposed facility would lead to traffic problems as the infrastructure was not built for a lot of vehicles. The town calls for the new provincial politicians, namely Progressive Conservatives Doug Ford and Rod Phillips, to look into the controversial GTA Gaming Bundle, as they promised during the campaign.
According to some progressive conservatives, the OLG and the liberal government sold the gaming assets in this “bundle” for much less than their real cost. As a result, Great Canadian generated a huge profit, opponents of the deal claim.