Industry Reports

Wasaga Beach Wants to Have the Final Say on Casino Venue Location, Beachfront Draws Attention

Wasaga Beach Committee of the Whole is in the midst of an important conversation in relation to the future Gateway Casinos venue which could soon make its way to the area. At this point, the discussion revolves around proposed locations for development ranging from a controversial beachfront piece of land to Wasaga’s downtown. Earlier this week Council members gave their almost unanimous No to offering the operator incentives for building in the beachfront area.

Casino development has been eyed for several months now, ever since the original announcement coming from Gateway Casinos. October 2018 saw the casino operator obtain a permit for operation in Wasaga Beach as part of the Central Gaming Bundle it acquired from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. It includes gaming management of Casino Rama Resort, the slots venue at Georgian Downs, and operation in Wasaga Beach.

Vote Mandates No Incentives Offering

In the months since the announcement, Wasaga Beach’s community has been debating the most appropriate location for a gambling venue. Now it is known that previously discussed incentives for beachfront construction might not be allowed. Members of the Committee of the Whole voted 5-1, essentially expressing their disagreement with the considered incentives amounting to millions of Canadian dollars.

They were supposed to attract the operator to purchase seven properties in the beachfront area of the town. This would have equated to a portion of the construction site of the new venue. The said incentives were part of a previously discussed Memorandum of Understanding reviewed by Gateway Casinos. What is controversial about it is the fact that the previous council was unaware of the existence of this Memorandum.

Mayor Nina Bifolchi made this clear earlier this month, thus prompting the most recent vote that gave it a resounding No. The approval of offering these incentives would have resulted in anything between CA$26 and CA$38 million, a price that is too high for the town of Wasaga at this point. Aforementioned land lots are privately owned. The land lots amount to anything between CA$8.22 million to CA$21 million, but in addition to them, there is also the parking lot.

Casino Could Make Its Way to the Beachfront

The project also features a previously discussed underground parking that would further alleviate the parking situation in Wasaga Beach. Its construction will cost some CA$14.5 million, swelling the overall tally to a considerable amount of money. Wasaga Beach Business Association’s Gloria Shaw said that the town should have the final say when it comes to the address of the casino venue.

There are five potential locations where casino operation could boost the local economy and the employment market and Wasaga Beach Councilors made it clear they would collaborate with the operator. Previous Council pinpointed locations to the likes of the roundabout at Highway 26, seeking higher traffic, as well as the commercial zone in the vicinity of Beach Area 1. Local business owners seek the economy boost that beachfront operation could guarantee.

The government has not confirmed whether it will provide the community with funding for the project, which should also be discussed in the upcoming weeks. Councilor Joe Belanger is among the supporters of gambling operation at the new community hub in the downtown area of the town. Meanwhile, the community is concerned by problem gambling rates surging due to the easy access to the casino venue.