A Sudbury group wants more public consultation around a new casino, set to be built alongside the arena at the Kingsway entertainment complex. In June, Gateway Casinos announced its intention to build a casino on the Kingsway site. City council approved the final site plan for the project in November, which included a casino next to the new community arena.
But some activists and business owners argue that the location will have high social and economic costs. They’ve formed a group called No Casino Sudbury. The group is holding a public town hall meeting Wednesday evening at St. Andrew’s Place to discuss their concerns.
“We’ve identified problems we see with the location, that we think are important and need to be addressed, but there hasn’t been any real consultation on this location,” steering committee member Christopher Duncanson-Hales says.
Christopher Duncanson-Hales is concerned that a casino on the Kingsway would increase problem gambling among low-income and senior populations. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)
Local economy, problem gambling concerns
Duncanson-Hales says No Casino Sudbury brings together a diverse group of people, all with different reasons for opposing the proposed location. “It’s business leaders, it’s faith community leaders, it’s social activists, it’s poverty activists, it’s people that recognize areas within their own sort of interest, where this casino is going to be a problem.
Some of the group’s members argue that the casino expansion will hurt the local economy, by taking taxes out of the community and attracting local gamblers instead of tourists. Duncanson-Hales worries that problem gambling would also increase among vulnerable low-income and senior populations. The group is now asking the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) to hold a series of town halls, so that people can voice their concerns, and evidence for both sides of the argument can be presented.
City council supportive in the past
Tony Bitonti, the senior manager of media relations for OLG, says an open house was held in October 2012 to discuss a potential casino development. Bitonti adds that the city has been supportive of a casino expansion for several years. “The City of Greater Sudbury has been a willing host municipality of a gaming site since November 1999,” he states in an email to CBC News.
“In February 2013, council unanimously passed another supportive resolution as a willing host municipality, also adding that it supports a casino development that could include amenities such as a hotel, or convention space, or multi-use centre, or an art centre or an OHL-ready arena. City councillor Robert Kirwan doesn’t expect council will reconsider its stance, despite No Casino Sudbury’s efforts. Kirwan says Sudbury is part of a bundle of 11 gaming facilities that Gateway Casinos will operate, through an agreement with OLG.
“Part of the agreement with the OLG is that Gateway will operate a casino in Greater Sudbury and Gateway has decided that it would like to build a new, modern facility in another location rather than at Sudbury Downs,” Kirwan says. “It would be fundamentally wrong for city council to deny the right for Gateway Casino to open a new facility anywhere in the City of Greater Sudbury, where it receives all required approvals.”