WASAGA BEACH – Local municipalities are planning to hold a public consultation session to determine if residents support a casino locating in the Georgian Triangle.
Municipal officials, following a closed-door meeting with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation representatives Wednesday, said they plan to hold the meeting in the near future.
Details about the date, location and format are still to be worked out.
The Wednesday meeting with OLG took place in Wasaga Beach at the town hall and lasted roughly four hours.
OLG officials gave an overview of what’s involved in bringing a casino to the area.
They also talked about the economic impacts a casino can have on a region.
In attendance were municipal representatives from Wasaga, Clearview, Collingwood and Springwater. The four municipalities have been designated as a possible site for a casino with 300 slot machines and potentially gaming tables.
“The OLG was very complimentary toward us because this is the first time they have experienced four municipalities coming together and working together, usually they make the presentation to one community,” Wasaga Beach mayor Cal Patterson said.
Patterson said Wasaga Beach is interested in hosting the casino and believes generally the public is too but he looks forward to hearing comments from residents and is looking for input as to where it should be located.
“It’s about engaging the public and having their concerns, if they have concerns addressed,” he said.
Clearview mayor Ken Ferguson and Collingwood mayor Sandra Cooper said they found the meeting informative and were looking forward to hearing public input on the casino issue.
Cooper and Collingwood deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd have supported Wasaga Beach as a casino location.
Ferguson said that following the public consultation session his council would have to consider what type of position it will take on a casino.
“I can pretty much say we aren’t interested in having one,” he said. “I can’t formally say that though – we’ve never voted on it and I’m only one person. Should we vote on it? I don’t know.”
Ferguson said Clearview council will have to talk about how to proceed if another municipality formally applies to host a casino.
“We would have to decide if we’re totally against it and don’t want anything to do with it or if we support it and we want to be a part of the negotiations in terms of revenue,” he said.
OLG officials noted at the meeting it’s not clear what type of revenue a host municipality could expect from a casino.
“Well it’s not clear because the funding formula hasn’t been finalized,” said Clearview councillor Brent Preston, another local politician who was at the meeting. “They (OLG) said mid-September they should know that.”
A document called Modernizing Lottery and Gaming in Ontario – which OLG presented at the meeting in Wasaga and a copy of which was obtained by Metroland Media – gives some examples of what a gaming facility has meant in other Ontario communities.
For example, in Hanover, since 2001, the host municipality has received $9.7-million.
During the same timeframe, the casino has also resulted in $41.5-million worth of wages and benefits and $4.4-million in purchases from local and regional vendors.
“So the numbers are tempting,” Preston said. “I understand the temptation people feel to get a piece of this money. But all the money – or a lot of what goes to the municipality – will come from problem gamblers. And that’s my fundamental problem with the whole thing.”
Preston said he’s not yet saying “no” to a casino in the area but he’s not convinced – given the negative social impacts – it’s a good idea.
Ferguson has mixed feelings too.
“Personally I think if this is all the province can come up with to grab more money it’s the wrong thing to do. But the big picture, looking at it as a person, I don’t have a problem spending money there for entertainment. I’ve been to Windsor, Niagara, Rama. I’ve had fun there, a nice meal. It was a night out. For a guy like me, I think it’s OK,” he said.
Ferguson added if a casino came it would bring well-paying jobs.
“But I think we have to work out the social issues too. We need to listen to the public.”
Cooper thinks a casino would be a good addition to the area.
“I think it’s great for the region to have one,” she said.
Patterson said the facility would provide higher paying jobs, as well as property tax revenue, especially if additional facilities like a hotel or entertainment centre were included.
He said the downside is, that the portion of the local population that struggles with gambling addiction – said to be 3.4 per cent of the population – will have an added temptation closer to home.
Along with a public consultation session – C7 zone municipalities have to work out how they would share casino proceeds, Patterson said.
OLG has said the host municipality will get a cut and if the municipality wants to share the proceeds with neighbouring communities that’s up to local officials to work out.
A memorandum of understanding that C7 zone municipalities recently signed states they will work to create a profit sharing formula.
Patterson said he wants the formula to include the county, because people use its roads, social services and ambulance services.
According to OLG, it wants to know this fall if a local municipality is interested in hosting a casino so it can go to the private sector to see if there is interest in building and operating a facility locally.