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Hamilton councillors will be debating a casino referendum motion on January 23.

Casino referendum back on the table

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla will re-introduce his motion this week asking the provincial government halt the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation restructuring process and allow the city to hold a casino referendum in 2014.

“My motion has been in suspended animation since last summer,” he said.

Merulla said he was prepared to introduce a similar motion last year, but delayed introducing it until after OLG officials appeared before council last fall to answer questions about a possible casino inHamiltonfrom politicians. A few days later, in answer to a question from politicians about holding casino referendum, OLG officials said it wasn’t necessary for the city hold one.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has also called on the provincial government to allow municipalities to hold referendums on gaming facilities within their boundaries.

OLG officials have argued delaying its selection of a private casino operator for the city will jeopardize millions of dollars. OLG has given councillors until March 1 to decide if the city wants to be a willing host for a downtown casino. Politicians already support Flamboro Downs as its preferred location for a gaming facility.

Soon after the OLG meeting with council, politicians outlined a public engagement process, including holding two recent public meetings, and conducting an online survey on a casino, to gauge the public’s interest in a casino.

The Ward 4 council is also requesting the next Liberal premier to respond toHamilton’s request to hold a referendum. Liberals are scheduled to select a replacement to Premier Dalton McGuinty at their Jan. 25-26 leadership convention inToronto.

“We want the Liberal leader to make a formal response,” said Merulla. “I want the next leader to tell the OLG to stop its process.”

The motion, which Merulla will introduce at the Jan. 23 council meeting, will also ask the province to pay the city the estimated $1 million cost to hold the referendum during the 2014 municipal election.

Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynn, who is one of the front-runners for the Liberal party leadership, said during a January news conference, municipalities are allowed to hold referendums. But when pushed as to whether she would stop the OLG process and allowHamiltonto hold one in 2014, she hesitated.

“I will wait until I get there (become the Liberal leader),” she said.

Wynne reiterated her position during a stop in Dundas Jan. 18 as she talked to reporters.

“Once I get there, we need to have that conversation,” she said, adding communities need to make their own decisions about whether they want to host a gaming facility.”

 

 

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