Councillor Brian McHattie is ready to walk away from a casino altogether.
“At some point, you’ve got to say yes or no. And at this point, I’m saying no,” McHattie said.
The Ward 1 councillor, in collaboration with Ward 4’s Sam Merulla, will bring forward a motion to council that cuts off any further discussion with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation about a new gaming facility in Hamilton.
Their move is in response to the OLG’s confirmation Friday that the provincial agency won’t wait until 2014 for Hamilton to hold a referendum during the next municipal election.
However, they may face some opposition around the council table. Mayor Bob Bratina points out that the city receives about $4.5 million every year from slot revenues at the Flamboro Downs casino.
“We are getting revenues from an operation right now that are substantial and could possibly grow,” Bratina said. “We shouldn’t be putting ourselves in a position of losing that.”
He also points out that when councillors passed the downtown secondary plan in 2005, a large swath of the area was zoned to host a casino.
“Probably the time to have a big debate about whether we wanted a casino downtown was leading up to that zoning bylaw,” Bratina said. “Here we are now in 2012 and some are saying that we should have a referendum to determine this. I think that horse is already out of the barn.”
Still, McHattie says the city shouldn’t necessarily rely on money that comes from gambling.
“I think we have to walk away from those funds,” he said Friday. “Hamilton’s really becoming very successful in many ways at this point. It’s on the right trajectory as a city and we don’t need gambling as a social challenge.”
According to the OLG, the city has the power to either say yes or no to a new casino. If Hamilton decides against hosting a new facility, the OLG won’t move forward with any further plans.