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Talks Continue At Western Fair

Published: March 2, 2018 4:30 pm ET

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"Our mission, our mandate, is as an agricultural society. I am hopeful, I am optimistic there are mutually agreeable terms."

Now into the 10th month of negotiations, reports from London indicate little progress into the future of the city's gaming landscape as talks continue between Western Fair District and Gateway Casino and Entertainment.

As previously reported, Gateway has its sights set on expansion in the Forest City with plans for as many as 1,200 slot machines, close to 50 table games and more dining options. What they don't want to do is stay status quo and continue to pay $6.2 million annually to lease the current expanded gaming space at Western Fair. However, Gateway spokesman Rob Mitchell insists the company has no intention to adversely impact Western Fair's mandate.

“We do not want to jeopardize that heritage (at Western Fair District). We want a renewed lease agreement or to buy land. The $6.2 million annually does not make sense to us,” Mitchell told the London Free Press. “We want shared amenities with the racetrack.”

“For us, it is our identity -- our role to this region is important and we don’t want to jeopardize it,” said Western Fair's CEO Hugh Mitchell. “We have trade shows, consumer shows, sports, a four-pad arena and we have horse racing 125 nights a year. We want to approach them with being bigger than just gambling. We want to make sure them being here does not conflict with our mandate.”

Earlier reports had indicated that Gateway might be in favour of obtaining land currently occupied by the Progress Building or a portion of the Western Fair grandstand, but neither party would confirm that those entities remain part of the stalemate.

“We have a lot at stake," said Western Fair's Mitchell. "We are not going to just turn over property that does not complement or support our role in the community.”

In the meantime, Gateway continues to search for a tract of land to potentially relocate the gaming operations as the City of London schedules public meetings for additional feedback on expanded gaming.

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