Mayor of Ottawa calls for casino, says city residents will have a say

OTTAWA – Ottawa should have its own casino in order to cash in on the demand for gambling, the city’s mayor said Tuesday.

Jim Watson says he’s tired of seeing gamblers in the city head across the border to place their bets at a casino in nearby Gatineau, Que.

That’s costing Ottawa jobs, Watson says, adding that a casino in the capital city would boost economic activity and tourism.

Watson is beginning a process that will see the public weigh in on the idea.

The mayor says after initial public comment, the city will vote on a casino report and then possibly approach the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., followed by more public meetings next year.

Ottawa isn’t the only Ontario city mulling a casino bid. Toronto’s executive committee will discuss a casino proposal from the OLG in the coming weeks.

Watson argued Ottawa is losing millions of dollars from gambling money streaming across the Ottawa River to Gatineau.

“Those are jobs, economic activity and taxes,” he said.

“Secondly, it’s a tourism draw. The number 1 tourist attraction in the national capital region is not Parliament Hill, it’s the casino in Gatineau.”

OLG chairman Paul Godfrey said last week that time is running out on a possible Toronto casino.

He said the agency would need an answer by the beginning of next year on the OLG’s “gaming entertainment centre” proposal, adding the project, if approved, would go forward with advice from the community and city hall.

“We look at it as not something that the OLG is going to impose, we look at it as something that we will receive input from groups … and from city representatives as well,” Godfrey said.

“It’s no use building something that’s not acceptable to all those who have lived here for many years.”

The proposed Toronto casino was part of a sweeping OLG plan unveiled last March to expand and “modernize” gambling in the province to help eliminate Ontario’s $15-billion deficit by 2017-18.

But Conservative Lisa MacLeod wants the province’s auditor to review the new gaming and casino plans, given that OLG reported in 2009 that Ontario casinos lost $46 million.

(1310News, The Canadian Press)