Municipalities poker faced on OLG offer of casino 0
Wasaga Beach is betting on increased revenue, jobs, and tourism if they open a casino, making them the first town from the area to express interest since Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced the region is eligible for a new gaming facility.
Wasaga Beach is in the middle of the Central 7 Zone, which also includes Collingwood, Clearview Township, and Springwater Township.
The municipalities involved met in Toronto last week for a Municipal Information Session.
"We see this as a significant opportunity," said Jenny Legget, Economic Development and Communications Officer for the town of Wasaga Beach.
Legget said the town has not made a decision, and the public's voice will be heard before one is made.
"There will be a big, huge public consultation before a decision is made," said Legget.
She says the town has yet to decide what format they will use to hear the public, but in the past have held public meetings, the municipal website, and local media to communicate with the public on community matters, such as the revitalization of Beach one and two last year.
"The Town of Wasaga Beach intends to undertake a thorough review of the opportunity," said Mayor Cal Patterson in a press release.
"We're well known for the beach," said Legget. "It would be nice to be known for something else as well."
Collingwood hopes to profit from a neighbouring casino, should that be the decision made by local politicians.
"We (local mayors) will be meeting in the next while to discuss a location that would benefit all of us, to determine if all four communities would be able to benefit," said Mayor Sandra Coooper.
Mayor Cooper is still on the fence as to whether she would recommend a casino for Collingwood.
"It would boost employment, and it would have a growth in our tax revenues," said Cooper.
But there are also negative implications when building gaming facility in town.
"Right now we are promoting a healthy lifestyle," said Cooper. "It would certainly be a change in that."
Cooper says drawing more tourists to this area would also impact the roads, and road maintenance, and could even affect paramedics and hospitals with increased traffic accidents.
OLG is promoting the positive impact a gaming facility would have on a town.
"Right now host communities get 5% from slots," said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti. "They can use that money for whatever they want."
"The new host communities will be getting a share, but it will change."
Bitonti said the slot revenues will be a significant contribution to the financial bottom line of municipalities.
Bitonti said since Georgian Downs opened in November of 2001, the municipality of Innisfil has received more than $46.2 million from slot revenues.
In addition to slot revenues, communities will benefit from increased employment, and OLG purchases from local vendors, he said.
"There are a lot of spin-off benefits in addition to the portion of the revenue," said Bitonti.
The OLG chose the Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview Township, and Springwater Township area because of its four-season tourism.
"We decided on Central 7 Zone because of the tourism base in that area," said Bitonti. "It's very popular in the winter and summer."
Once a municipality expresses interest in having a gaming facility in their town, OLG will be asking the private sector to bid on the development.
OLG has set a deadline of July 4 for Requests for Information. Requests for Pre-Qualification for the private sector will be released later this summer, while Requests for Proposals will be advertised in the fall.
"Up until now OLG has been the developer. We're changing our business model," said Bitonti. "We felt if we changed the business model we could increase our contributions to the province by $1 billion to $1.3 billion."
But OLG will continue to oversee the gambling operations.
"Gambling in the province is highly regulated," said Bitonti. "But we won't be running the day-to-day operation."
Legget says Wasaga Beach is hoping the private sector partnership will attract a hotel that will operate year-round.
In the end, it will be up to the municipalities to decide whether they want a casino in town or not.
"If a municipality does not want a gaming facility, we won't go where we are not wanted," said Bitonti.
Mayor Sandra Cooper is looking to the public to help make this decision.
"It certainly is a public process. I would want to hear from Collingwood," she said. "I've had emails, and that can continue."
If the municipalities decide to move ahead on allowing a casino, Bitonti says OLG could take 12 to 18 months to decide which private sector wins the bid to build a casino.