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Melnyk Against RCR Casino Expansion

Published: June 5, 2013 2:46 pm ET

Last Comment: June 7, 2013 9:19 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Eugene Melnyk, one of Canada's most high-profile racehorse owners, has announced to the media that he is furious over Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson's decision to now only consider the Rideau Carleton Raceway as the only acceptable location for casino expansion.

As a report by the Ottawa Business Journal explains, Melnyk, who is also the owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators, wants Ottawa City Council to vote against Mayor Watson's upcoming motion on the issue.

Mayor Watson announced earlier this week that his motion will only support expansion at Rideau Carleton Raceway and that a casino anywhere else is no longer an option.

According to the Ottawa Business Journal, Melnyk owns property close to Scotiabank Place, where the Ottawa Senators play their home games. The report states that Melnyk was eagerly anticipating the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s casino Request for Pre-Qualification process to start, and that he saw the location as "logical" for casino expansion.

The contents of Melnyk's open letter on the situation appears below.


Late yesterday, Mayor Watson issued a public letter to his Council colleagues to inform them of his intention to table a notice of motion at today’s regularly scheduled FEDCO meeting. The Mayor did in fact proceed with officially tabling this notice.

The motion’s sole intent is to declare the Rideau Carleton Raceway (RCR) as “the only acceptable location for an expanded gaming facility in Ottawa.”

I will begin by saying that for those who are unaware, I am an avid horseman. I race thoroughbred horses all over the world including in Ontario so I fully appreciate the challenges and what is at stake as it relates to the future of Rideau Carleton Raceway and the many employees and families who are so closely associated with its operations. These are hard working men and women who I respect immensely.

Some councilors have suggested they support the Mayor’s motion in part because it eliminates the debate of potentially locating the casino downtown. Indeed, it eliminates this debate but it more astoundingly eliminates any future, thoughtful consideration to other, more viable sites that would, in my opinion, return greater financial and non-financial benefits to our great city.

Over the years, many have posed the question whether I would be interested in having a casino located on my site to benefit and complement the many sports and entertainment activities currently taking place. Experienced gaming service providers who understand fully the complexity involved in considering an optimal site for a major casino in Ottawa have told us our site with over two-million-plus visitors annually serviced by the largest parking lot in Eastern Ontario and its location offering high visibility adjacent to a major provincial highway makes for a perfect location.

I have patiently waited for the OLG to complete its Request for Pre-Qualification (RFPQ) process from which will emerge three to five shortlisted and highly qualified operators who no doubt will have lots to say about where a casino should be located to best serve Ottawa now and in the future. And, I am confident that if due process were to unfold, my site would be a highly logical and reasonable alternative.

Unfortunately, the Mayor’s decision to submit this notice of motion will eliminate any and all discussions with the shortlisted service providers about selecting an optimal location for Ottawa’s future casino. By introducing this motion, the Mayor has effectively sole sourced the casino’s location. That is not due process.

I think the people of Ottawa would have much to say if it was determined that an alternate site could generate an incremental $40-50 million in gaming revenue compared to the “only acceptable location” of RCR.

Clearly, I believe Senators Sports & Entertainment has the potential to play a significant role in the future of Ottawa’s casino. I would welcome that debate.

The question now is whether the Mayor and Council will allow this opportunity to present itself by not supporting the notice of motion in its current form.

Eugene Melnyk

Owner, Governor and Chairman

Ottawa Senators and Senators Sports & Entertainment


June 7, 2013 - 9:19 amThe debate is exactly about

The debate is exactly about what Mr. Melnyk wants (for himself). He can still race his thoroughbreds wherever he wants. Standardbred horsemen only have RCR. After he gets the money for his property, the downtown casino will fail.

June 6, 2013 - 2:59 pmJust another greedy

Just another greedy Billionaire trying to further pad his wallet. Toronto has theirs and Ottawa's now surfaces. Greed allows them no conscience. Eugene justifies his stance in the first paragraph by saying "oh yes I'm a horseman", but reveals the wolf in sheep's clothing in showing that greed trumps his horsemanship. All a game to these two billionaires, but in the end I've never seen a hearse going with a u-haul behind it. Shame.

June 6, 2013 - 9:20 amIf Mr. Melnyk had a true

Lynne Magee SAID...

If Mr. Melnyk had a true "appreciation" and understanding of the plight of the horsepeople (particularly the Standardbred industry)and horses in that area of the province, he might see the wisdom in Mayor Watson's decision. Otherwise, he is only looking out for his own financial gain. It would seem to me that he is already financially secure and that greed is his only motivation to make these objections and statements. Hasn't greed already ruined far too many breeding and racing barns across the province? From all accounts, it appears that 'downtown' located gambling establishments are not nearly as profitable as those at racetracks. Do your homework, Mr. Melnyk and concentrate on your Ottawa Senators---and, of course, your life in Barbados! We horsepeople will keep fighting for the survival of our industry and the lives of our horses here in Ontario.

June 6, 2013 - 8:55 amThis Gentleman

This Gentleman is,,,,,,,,,right on the money. He also is a good stewart of the talents given to him.

June 6, 2013 - 8:39 amJust another example that

Just another example that money is the driving force behind everything....Does Mr. Melnyk not have enough money....He know's the plight of the average horesman, yet his pockets are more important.

June 5, 2013 - 9:04 pmSo Mr Melynk is furious...

Roy Steele SAID...

So Mr Melynk is furious... maybe as an avid horeseman he will feel the pain that the rest of Ontario horsemen and women are feeling after the dismantling of the slots program.
It is only recently Mr Melynk announced a huge cut back in his racing operations dismantling a major part of his breeding operation, over three hundred horses and employees too no doubt. Not much respect for the hard working men and women in that decision plus the horses.
As for appreciating what is at stake at Rideau Carlton I dont think you have a clue Mr Melynk..... In your words what is at stake is a greater fiancial return for the city of Ottawa (and all those recieving a slice of the pie at your site.)
We those hard workers are fighting for our livelyhoods and for the generations that went before us and for those who will carry the torch into the future.
We those hard workers who are now racing at some tracks for 2k purses.
It is public people like Mayor Watson who have done their homework and represent the best interests of the Ottawa people. Fortunatly that coincides with the horse racing industry in this case where tradition and family respect can still be a part of everyday life plus jobs of course. Hopefully this is a line in the sand so we can represent our sport around the world in the future.

June 5, 2013 - 5:19 pmMy heart is bleeding right

Randy Copley SAID...

My heart is bleeding right now for Eugene Melnyk. He definatly seems like he's a very committed horse owner! I'm pretty sure Ottawa would be best served to protect the thousands of jobs in its area by building a casino at RCR than making Eugene Melnyk richer than he already is. Get this man a tissue.

June 5, 2013 - 4:54 pmObviously Mr. Melnyk does not

Obviously Mr. Melnyk does not have enough respect for hardworking horse people not to put his requirement for profit ahead of our livelihoods. Many of the horse folks at RCR are avid Senator fans - I would never again attend Scotiabank place for a game if Mr. Melnyk screws this up for us.

Putting a casino in a sporting venue that thousands of children and teens visit annually is just a bad plan. And isn't parking at the "Bank" $11?

June 5, 2013 - 4:44 pmNot to worry Mr. Melnyk, I'm

Not to worry Mr. Melnyk, I'm sure you will be pushing the buttons of some of your high & mighty connection to have council vote down the Mayor's proposal. At the end of the day you know as we all do, that for RCR to survive, the Casino needs to be there on-site, at the track. You want it in the City on your site for obvious self serving reasons and nothing more.

June 5, 2013 - 3:51 pmI think we all appreciate

I think we all appreciate everything Mr Melnyk represents, however, this debate is not about what he wants, it is about what the people of Ottawa deem to be the logical choice for a full blown casino. Before any decision is made a referendum should occur so all voters have a chance to determine the outcome. After all it is the voters who will pay should this casino venture falls on it face. Remember the Drummond report, which stated that stand alone casinoes have little chance of financial survival. Case in point, Windsor Niagara Falls Rama and Thousand Island. Just thinking out loud for what it is worth. Bruce T. Winning


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