Following an announcement that Sudbury Downs will be laying off 38 people next month, two city councillors are urging the provincial government to put a casino at the home of the current slots and racetrack facility.
“The OLG’s (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) made good money with Sudbury Downs,” Evelyn Dutrisac, whose ward includes the Downs, said on Sunday.
“I think that’s where it should be. It should stay at Sudbury Downs. If they want to bring in tables for gambling, there’s room there. There’s parking, there’s room, it’s creating jobs … It’s a win-win situation to keep it there.”
Earlier this year, following a report by economist Don Drummond on how the province can save money, the provincial government shared its plans to end the Slots at Racetracks program and replace slots facilities with casinos.
Private companies have been invited to submit proposals to build and run the casinos.
Slots at Racetracks was an agreement that, in exchange for putting OLG slot machines at existing racetracks, shared revenue between the racetracks, the municipality and the government.
In May, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci said he’d like to see a casino located in downtown Sudbury. Claude Berthiaume, the councillor for ward three — which also encompasses the Sudbury Downs area — said there will be too many problems if that happens.
“My preference would be that the casino (come) here to Sudbury Downs. Sudbury Downs has all the amenities — it has the restaurants and parking, lots of area.
“If (the casino’s) downtown, it’s going to be completely different. People can just walk there, there are issues of people underage — I’m sure that will be a problem.”
“I’ve had calls from people that don’t want it downtown,” Dutrisac added. “They’re concerned about the impact it will have on certain groups of people … and the residents.”
In a release issued on Friday, Ken Le Drew, the general manager of Sudbury Downs, said next month’s 38 cuts are just the beginning.
“The future of Sudbury Downs remains uncertain but, with our race season coming to an end, we must give staff fair and proper notice and let them know, at present, there will be no job to return to in April 2013.”
Le Drew could not be reached for comment Sunday.
In the release, Downs’ operations director Andrew MacIsaac said unless there are “positive developments” more people will be fired on Dec. 31 and March 31, 2013 — the day the Slots at Racetracks program gets cancelled. In all, more than 100 jobs are at risk. That doesn’t include the horse people, OLG staff and businesses that support the racing industry.
“I do hope that it doesn’t close, because it means a lot to the agriculture and the area,” said Dutrisac. “I’m very disappointed. I sat on Rayside-Balfour council when we approved the slots with Sudbury Downs. I really thought that this agreement was a good agreement.
“A lot of our farmers are producing crops for the horses. What’s going to happen to those horses?
“A lot of people have invested money (in the industry). This is going to have a grave impact on agriculture in the City of Greater Sudbury.”
“From the farmers that provide hay and grains and the vets and the horseshoe people … all this will have a huge impact on the farmers around the area as well,” said Berthiaume.
“It is sad to see that we are killing the racing horse industry.”