Waterdown Hosts Hamilton Consultation Meeting

Published: January 17, 2013 11:08 am EST

The first of two public consultation meetings regarding potential casino expansion in Hamilton, Ont. took place last night (Wednesday, January 16) at Waterdown District High School in Flamborough.

According to a CHCH video report by Sean Cowan, a group of roughly 30 anti-downtown casino activists and one horse set up outside the school and voiced their displeasure with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and Ontario Liberal Government's desires to erect a downtown casino complex, similar to that in Windsor, Ont., into downtown Hamilton.

The CHCH report featured an interview with Matthew Green of the 'NO! Downtown Casino group. "Basically, we already have a casino (Flamboro Downs) out here (Hamilton), and evidence-based research suggests that proximity to poverty increases problem gambling," Green said. "We know that downtown Hamilton, as identified by the code red, has some of the poorest postal codes in the country, so we just don't think it (downtown casino expansion) fits with what we are trying to do in Hamilton."

As time went on and the proceedings began to take place indoors, OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti stated that he believed horse racing will survive in the province during the upcoming post-slots-at-racetracks program era. He also mentioned that private sector companies that the OLG ultimately selects as gaming operators in the province will make the decision of whether or not slot-machine gaming remains at provincial racetracks in the future.

“There was horseracing before there was a slots-at-racetracks program. We (the OLG) believe there will be a horseracing industry without the slots-at-racetracks program," said Bitonti, who also did not mention that the competition for Ontario gaming dollars was slim to none before the provincial racing industry agreed to allow the OLG into its racetracks in the late 1990s.

As an article by the CBC explains, the panelists in attendance on Wednesday could not promise that racing would continue at Flamboro Downs in the post-SARP era. The report states that panelist Bruce Barbour of Great Canadian Gaming, which operates racing at Flamboro Downs, said racing at the track can only continue with government support.

The OLG has set a March 1 deadline for the City of Hamilton to determine whether or not it wants to be a willing host for a casino.

Local PC candidate Donna Skelly, who has spoken out against the OLG/Liberal gaming modernization plan, was in appearance on Wednesday and asked Bitonti why the OLG can not wait for the City of Hamilton to undertake a referendum on the issue.

As an article by the Hamilton Spectator explains, the OLG had previously stated that it could not wait until 2014 for Hamilton to hold a referendum on the issue while coinciding with the area's scheduled municipal election). The report cited Bitonti as saying that Hamilton could have held a referendum if it chose to do so, quoting the OLG spokesman as saying, “If they wish, they can."

Hamilton City Council has consistently voiced its support for the current gaming facility at Flamboro Downs to remain instead of introducing a downtown casino. In terms of a downtown location if the casino were to be introduced to the urban setting, the city planning department has identified the waterfront, King Street East, York Boulevard and Jackson Square as conceivable locations as long as the property is associated with a hotel complex or other city-building projects.

The second of the consultation sessions is scheduled to take place today (Thursday, January 17) at Hamilton City Hall (71 Main St. W.). The session is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and it has been reported that Cable 14 will be televising the proceedings. The meetings will also be streamed live on the City of Hamilton's website.

(With files from CBC, CHCH and the Hamilton Spectator)



One thing that has never been discussed in this whole debate is the fact that Racinos are the most successful gambling operations in North America. The SAR program was a money making machine, a massive cash cow for both the OLG,and the government.Racinos all over highly successful. The top people at the OLG failed to realise this.It is quite obvious Godfrey, Phillips, and Bitonti no nothing about gambling or gamblers,they made a huge mistake in cancelling the prorgam,if this isnt true lets see the latest OLG finances. As for Bingo parlors they became dead meat once the no smoking laws came into effect,patrons would rather smoke than play bingo,putting in slot machines wont help as the money spent in them reduces the size of the bingo pools which is their main attraction.Also bingo halls dont have enough patrons to warrant catering facalities.so Bitontis dream of reviving the Bingo industry is doomed to failure.The reason Racinos are so successful is that they appeal to all gamblers,Close the Windsor Racino and tth Fort Erie Racino and the patrons will be forced to go to the nearby Casinos was Phillips and Godfreys thinking unfortunatly for them this hasnt happened and the slot machines that were there are rusting in a wharehouse,and the Casinos are still laying off employuees.The time has come for the OLG to admit its mistake and bring back the SAP program

The rush to end horseracing and a bigger rush to turn our control on gambling over to foriegn interest, remember how you vote in the next election and listen when people speak about spliting the vote only to allow the present gov't a 2nd chance.

I firmly believe that the OLG does not care about the survival of horse racing in Ontario. They have one interest and one interest only and that is how can we pad our pockets. They are insensitive to the jobs of 55,000 - 60,000 people who work in the horse related industry. The OLG and the Liberal Government have factored a deal which will be the demise of the racing industry in Ontario. What was McGuinty thinking when this all transpired? If the OLG is so determined to increase gaming in Ontario, they should invest in the current facilities at the tracks, have the government keep SARP in place which will allow rural Ontario to be vibrant. People from Hanover, Clinton, Dresden, Peterborough etc. are not going to travel to large casinos for a night of gambling.

Bitonti's comments just go to confirm how the OLG is completely out of touch with reality.
It seems now that the "Private Sector companies" (likely Americans) will be deciding the fate of Ontario's Horse Racing.