Ottawa: Mayor threatens to cancel casino

Mr. Watson made the comments in an open letter dated March 15 and addressed to the body responsible for gambling in the province, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The letter is apparently in response to comments OLG chief executive Rod Phillips made to the Globe and Mail this week that Toronto would receive more than double the fees of other municipalities for hosting a casino.

Toronto would receive higher fees because a casino there is a more ambitious venture than in other cities, Mr. Phillips said, according to the Globe story.

Mr. Watson rejected the suggestion that Toronto should receive special treatment.

“I strongly disagree with the OLG’s suggestion that it is planning to introduce preferential revenue sharing for the City of Toronto that, by function, would discriminate against all other municipalities,” the letter, addressed to OLG CEO Paul Godfrey, reads.

“I urge you to revisit this decision at your earliest opportunity.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement after Mr. Watson’s letter saying there would be “no special deal for Toronto.”

However she suggested that Toronto might be getting more as a result of what she referred to as “hosting fees.”

“The hosting fee for Toronto would reflect the size and scale that global gaming companies have confirmed is possible in the city,” her statement said. “If the same capital investment and job potential are possible elsewhere, the same hosting fees would be generated.”

An OLG spokesperson was not immediately available to respond to the letter.

The city has been discussing the possibility of bringing a casino to Ottawa on the understanding that all municipalities would get the same deal, Mr. Watson’s letter said.

Mr. Watson quotes a letter the OLG sent to him in November that said the “payment formula” for municipalities who host casinos would not change.

Ottawa city councillors agreed in principle to have a casino somewhere in Ottawa last October when they passed a motion inviting interested businesses to submit bids to build one.

However, a casino is far from a done deal and the city still has the power to remove itself from the running for a new gaming facility.

“Unless the City of Ottawa receives the same revenue sharing formula as that being made available to the City of Toronto I will, in the coming months, bring forward a motion to city council recommending that the City of Ottawa withdraw from the OLG’s RFP process,” Mr. Watson’s letter reads.

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