Ontario gaming-related news from jurisdictions to the east of Toronto has received quite a bit of ink over the past few days. First and foremost, Belleville Councillor Jodie Jenkins has reissued his demand for information on the potential economic impact of a gaming facility in the city. Jenkins has been quoted as saying, “The OLG is asking the city to conduct public consultations on a project for which there are few details and no numbers.”
Jenkins' quote, and the news of his quest for more information surrounding the possible gaming expansion in the city, comes courtesy of an article by the Belleville Intelligencer. The report also explains that Jenkins has submitted a letter to Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. President and CEO Rod Phillips, and that he is also trying to persuade his fellow councillors to support a referendum on the issue.
“Residents need to have a clearer picture of what impact a casino would have on our local economy and they need to have that information now and not after the consultation process ends,” the article has quoted Jenkins as saying.
The Belleville Intelligencer report also contains quotes from Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith, who also supports Jenkins' position.
Smith was quoted as saying, "The government hasn't offered a single fact to substantiate the claim that casinos will have a positive economic impact on host cities.” He went on to state, “This rush into casino gambling by the provincial government is ill conceived and supported by a lot of best case scenarios and questionable economics. Municipalities are being put under unreasonable timeliness to meet a provincial agenda without the chance to fully evaluate the impact this will have on their community.”
Staying with Belleville, the Belleville Intelligencer has also run a letter to the editor which has explained exactly how the Quinte Exhibition and the Belleville Agricultural Society has taken the brunt of the years-long Baymount racino delay.
The author of the letter is not listed on the posting, but he states:
The BAS is in a tight spot. Back when they hitched their wagon to the Baymount train, slot revenues were still being shared with racetracks. They were going to get a new facility, and they had no reason not to believe the project would go forward. So, they put off repairs to the buildings on the current Quinte Exhibition & Raceway site. I mean, they’re just going to be torn down, right?
Then, along comes Uncle Dalton, to steal Casino and Slots money back for the province`s coffers. Another broken Fiberal promise — except now, the Ag Society is left with a 41-year-lease on a property that, to put it plainly, hasn’t been properly maintained for the last eight years.
He goes on to explain that:
They could negotiate with the City to get out of their lease early, which would give the City the ability to sell off the QER site for future development – but then the City would also have to find them a new location, buy the land, construct the new buildings, and lease it back to the BAS.
So, unless one of the bidding consortiums partners with the Ag Society to include a new exhibition facility, and unless that bid is selected as the winner, the City will be on the hook for the cost of either improving the buildings, or relocating the Ag Society to a new facility. And guess who pays for that? You and me, Mr. and Mrs. Belleville Taxpayer.
In addition to the news from Belleville, the Town of Ajax and the Town of Whitby are reportedly currently at odds over municipal gaming proceeds.
According to an article by durhamregion.com, Ajax and Whitby are located within the same gaming zone, created by the OLG as part of its controversial gaming modernization plan. The report states that a Whitby councillor is making a push to get the Town of Ajax to send a 15 to 20 per cent portion of its gaming revenues to Whitby. Ajax receives its cut of gaming revenues for being the host municipality to Ajax Downs, the province's second-most profitable gaming facility.
The article has quoted Whitby Councillor Don Mitchell as rhetorically asking whether Ajax is now willing to share a portion of its gaming revenue with Whitby because there is now the chance that Ajax Downs will lose the slot machines it currently houses.
"The key point for me is whether Ajax is willing to share, knowing they now risk losing everything," Mitchell was quoted as saying, threatening, according to the report, that Whitby will make a play to host a gaming facility if Ajax doesn't share its proceeds from the OLG Slots.
In the article, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish did not come across as worried by the Whitby posturing. He also cited the fact that residents of Ajax had previously voted to allow expanded gaming within its borders.
"The OLG has made it very, very clear, they're only considering locating these things in a willing host municipality. Ajax clearly is, Whitby clearly is not," Parish was quoted as saying.
"It's a little bit galling," Parish was quoted as saying, in regard to the Whitby councillor's demand for his town to get a cut of Ajax's gaming revenue. "I just don't see how they support this claim, except for 'I want money.' Well, we all want money, but tell me why you are deserved or entitled to it? I don't know what the foundation of their claim is. Is there some impact on their infrastructure? Is there something? And as far as we know, no there isn't. And the Ajax Downs site is, I would say, less than a kilometre from Whitby right now, I mean what would be the point of moving it?"
(With files from the Belleville Intelligencer and durhamregion.com)