City takes step forward in casino development
Published Tuesday, September 5, 2017 3:22PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:06PM EDT
The proposal to build a state-of-the-art $320 million casino at the Rideau Carleton Raceway passed its first real vote at a full city council meeting.
Council voted 19-4 to approve the construction of 21 new gaming tables and approved the Rideau Carleton Raceway as the only site acceptable for the development of a casino.
A number of councillors expressed concern over gambling addictions but Mayor Jim Watson said that's not the city's problem.
"They're spending about 9 million dollars a year on programs, helplines...I don't believe the city of Ottawa or any city in Ontario should take that responsibility away from the province," the Mayor said after council.
But Councillor Diane Deans, who has also expressed concern about the lack of public consultation, said the health and safety of Ottawa residents needs to be studied further.
"We need to understand I think better than we do today the public's view of if we are going down that path, what should we be doing to mitigate the adverse impacts on families and on individuals in the community," Deans said.
Council's decision comes about one week aafter the city's finance committee voted along the same lines at a public meeting with nobody from the community there to speak about the casino.
The debate over whether to build a new casino and where it should be built has been around for decades, but the issue really heated up again in 2011 under pressure from the Ontario Government and again in 2013 when Mayor Watson proposed a downtown casino. The public has been invited to speak and submit comments throughout the process.
Right now the plan is for Hard Rock Casino Ottawa to take over day-to-day operations of the Rideau Carleton Racetrack later this month before slowly moving forward with a $320 million renovation of the facility. The expansion is expected to bring jobs to rural Ottawa and attract more people to the area.
"We are really starving for employment in rural Ottawa south ... and this will not only hire people from Osgoode ward, but from everywhere in the city," said the area's councillor George Darouze.
Hard Rock Casino Ottawa has yet to file a formal application relating to the racetrack and when that happens Mayor Watson said the public will have further input on what is built and how. Watson said a formal application will likely be submitted in the next six months or so.