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Casino development must conform to provincial plans, says premier

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton politicians may decide where a casino will be located, but any site needs to conform to Ontario’s planning principles, says Premier Kathleen Wynne.

During a conference call with Niagara andHamiltonreporters Feb. 14, the recently sworn in premier said all municipalities will be able to decide where they want the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to place a gaming facility.

But the location “will have to be consistent with the province’s Greenbelt legislation,” said Wynne.

If a developer wants to expand the current Flamboro Downs site and build a restaurant, hotel, or add other gaming activities, the province’s Greenbelt legislation prevents any construction within the area. The legislation was introduced by the Liberals in 2005, and will be up for renewal in 2015 to prevent sprawl and protect the environment.

Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge and Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark have introduced a motion asking the province to allow an expansion of Flamboro Downs to accommodate a hotel, restaurant, and gaming facility.

Wynne said it will be “up to municipalities to work it out” for a possible casino location, acknowledging the issue has become “contentious” in Hamilton.

Wynne said she will be meeting with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chair Paul Godfrey to discuss its restructuring process, which includes eliminating the $345 million slots at racetrack program by March 31. The premier, who will be calling the Ontario Legislature back on Feb. 19, said she wants to see a sustainable horse-racing industry.

But she did agree with the horse-racing panel’s report released last fall that the industry will have to be smaller in scope.

“In order (for the industry) to be sustainable, it will have to be smaller in the transition,” she said.

Woodbine Racetrack recently announced it was laying off 109 salaried employees and “significantly” more others after agreeing to a deal with the provincial government. So far, Flamborough, and Fort Erie racetracks have not received an agreement from the province.

“There are on-going discussions with racetracks,” she said.

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