CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall won’t be getting a casino any time soon, according to an Ontario auditor general report released this week.
But the big question now seems to be, how close were we to actually being considered?
The Ontario auditor general released a report this week concerning the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Corporation’s modernization plan.
Buried in the report is a specific mention that a Cornwall casino, planned by OLG for winter 2015, is no longer a viable option.
“While Cornwall was initially considered as a potential site for a new gaming facility, OLG received government approval for 29 Gaming Zones across the province,” said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti. “Included in that initial group of 29 zones were the 24 current OLG slots, casinos and resort casinos, as well as the potential for up to five new gaming sites in North Bay, Kenora, Wasaga Beach or Collingwood, Belleville or Quinte West, and the GTA.
“At this time, there are no plans to expand the number of gaming zones across the province.
Bitonti did not answer specific questions as to when the process for considering Cornwall began, why the plan was shelved, or if it could be resurrected.
Back in April, 2012 city council was looking at getting permission from the province to allow construction of a casino in the Seaway City.
City council gave the green light to at least explore the idea of a casino in Cornwall, by asking administrators to prepare a report on the quickest way to request Queen’s Park approval to build a gaming house here.
In early March of that year, the provincial government lifted a moratorium on casinos that had been in place since 2005. Municipalities were required to hold mandatory referendums on new casinos as part of the legislation that has now lapsed.
Coun. Glen Grant got the ball rolling when he put forward a motion directing administrators to prepare the report.
In that time Grant says nothing has been received in response.
“I haven’t received any information from administration, directly or indirectly,” he said.
In 2012 economic development manager Mark Boileau penned correspondence to OLG outlining the beneifts of a Cornwall casino, but that material went nowhere.
Boileau said the fact that Cornwall was listed on an auditor general report as a potential site for a casino could have been generated from a number of sources.
“You don’t know where that could be coming from,” he said. “They may have had conversation with the private sector.”
It appears OLG has shifted to Belleville, from Cornwall, for the construction of a new casino.
The auditor general report suggests Belleville city council has voted in favour of the project, and OLG is in the process of retaining a private-sector operator who will develop a proposal for the facility.