By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton officials will be holding two public information meetings in January 2013 to give residents a chance to voice their opinions about allowing a new casino gaming facility in the city.
Flamborough’s Waterdown High School will hold the first public session Jan. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. The event , say officials, will have a multi-member panel to discuss the issue, and then it will open the forum up to residents for questions and comments. The discussion is expected to centre on keeping Flamboro Downs open, how to prevent the horse racing industry from leaving the facility, and the benefits and draw backs of relocating a casino to the city’s downtown area.
“It should have some good wholesome discussion,” said Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge.
Council still remains behind its original motion to support Flamboro Downs as the city’s preferred location for a gaming facility.
Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta said “it is imperative we keep Flamboro Downs open.”
The other forum is scheduled for Jan. 17 at city hall, starting at 6:30 p.m. Both events will be televised by Cable 14.
The downtown forum is expected to allow people from across the city to voice their views, and listen to the discussion through electronic technology. It was one of the requirements the Mountain councillors insisted on so that their residents could participate in the forum without attending the downtown event.
“We need to have a respectful debate (so) we need the pros and cons,” said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla.
The city planning department recently released a downtown map identifying the areas where a casino could conceivable be located based upon the zoning requirements. Areas identified as allowing a gaming facility include the waterfront, King Street East, York Boulevard, and Jackson Square.
General Manager of Planning, Tim McCabe, said city staff would be against any casino in the downtown area that would be a stand alone property. He said any casino plan needs to be associated with a city-building project, such as with a hotel complex.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission has been discussing with potential local casino developers about bidding for a facility, but no one has come forward. McCabe has said he knows of a number of investors, but refuses to identify them. The OLG has given the city until March 1 to say if it is willing to be a host for a gaming facility, a requirement under the OLG’s casino process.
Hamilton receives about $4.4 million in slot revenues from Flamboro Downs this year. But the province’s Slots at Racetracks Program, created to boost the horse racing industry will end March 31, 2013, saving the province about $345 million.