Woolwich officials poised for crucial casino vote Tuesday
It’s an issue so controversial, the chair of regional council felt compelled to register as a delegation and tell Woolwich Township officials he’s against a casino.
“I’m going as a resident of Woolwich Township,” Regional Chair Ken Seiling said. “It’s an issue that I feel very strongly about.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing for Woolwich.”
Woolwich politicians will make a monumental decision Tuesday — deciding whether or not to bring a casino to Waterloo Region.
Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley and Wilmot have all either voted against a casino or expressed no interest.
It’s all down to Woolwich.
Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan said he was hearing both positive and negative feedback from the community on the question of a casino.
“I’m getting a lot more people face to face … pro-casino,” Cowan said. “It’s about 50-50.”
At 7 p.m. in council chambers at 24 Church St. W. in Elmira, four Woolwich councillors and Cowan will hear from delegations before deciding whether to tell the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation they are interested in bringing as many as 1,200 slot machines and hundreds of gaming tables to the township.
There are at least nine people scheduled to make presentations and speak on the issue, including Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian, Brantford Mayor Chris Friel, Gerry Forler of Citizens Against Gambling and Seiling.
The township released a community impact report in February that looked at the potential effects of approving a casino.
Staff estimated a casino would bring up to $4 million in new revenues to township coffers per year — the equivalent of raising property taxes 52 per cent.
Another $3.5 million would be raised annually in property taxes.
According to the impact report, the cash would likely be used to create an infrastructure reserve fund and possibly eliminate a special infrastructure tax put in place last year.
Officials would also agree to discuss revenue-sharing with the region to address concerns about increased police, public health and social costs of gambling.
If the casino is approved, Region of Waterloo councillors will debate Wednesday a motion from Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr to ask the gaming corporation to consult with regional government when opening a casino in a lower tier municipality and that revenues be shared.
Woolwich is considering a casino in response to an attempt by the lottery corporation to establish gaming operations in new places. The region was identified as a zone which could support a facility.
The township has undergone a public consultation process that included a public meeting, online survey and questionnaire sent to every residence in Woolwich.
In total, 11 per cent of the township’s eligible voting population — 1,866 people — responded. Thirty-eight per cent were in favour of a casino and 62 per cent were not.
The report also identifies potential locations for the casino:
• 2609 Shantz Station Rd. (about 13 acres could be developed)
• 800 King St. N. (about 18 acres could be developed).
Should council vote yes on Tuesday, it wouldn’t be a done deal. The decision would only signify the township’s willingness to host a casino. Details would still need to be worked out with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.