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File photo by Ted Brellisford, The Hamilton Spectator

File photo by Ted Brellisford, The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton councillors have made the Flamboro Downs site their preferred location for a casino.

Farr stands firm on Global Spectrum’s opposition to downtown casino

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Hamilton councillor Jason Farr stands “100 per cent” behind the statement Global Spectrum representatives made to him about opposing a downtown casino because it would impact Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place operations.

“That was their response to the question if they would welcome a casino,” said Farr. “They were made aware their response was going to be made public. That’s for certain.”

During a Feb. 14 news conference outside council chambers prior to councillors debating whether to allow a gaming facility in the downtown, Farr said when he asked Frank Russo, vice president of business development and client relations at Global Spectrum, if the company would “welcome such a venue,” Russo said “No.”

Farr took a call from Russo, at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 during a government issues committee meeting on the 2013 budget. Farr then asked for an email to be sent to him containing

Global Spectrum’s position on a downtown casino. Farr followed up with a hastily called news conference outside council chambers at 12:45 p.m. to present Global Spectrum’s position.

Farr also quoted Global Spectrum’s Brock Jones, vice-president of event bookings, who stated a casino venue inHamilton’s downtown will “fundamentally kill the market for entertainment events at Copps and Hamilton Place.”

Farr quoted Riley O’Connor of Live Nation saying any such gaming facility “will directly compete with Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place.

Councillors on Feb. 13 agreed to a five-year agreement with Global Spectrum and Live Nation to oversee Copps and Hamilton Place.

A consortium of local businesses, including the Carmen’s Group, Hard Rock International, and LIUNA, have already proposed a $200-million hotel and gaming facility for the downtown.

Farr, who voted along with the majority of councillors against a downtown casino in favour of the Flamboro Downs location, said there was a need to ask Global Spectrum representatives about a possible gaming facility in the core.

A request for comment was sent to Global Spectrum representatives, but had yet to be returned.

Farr said Global Spectrum officials “absolutely they knew” what they were telling the Ward 2 councillor who represents the downtown area could eventually end up in the media.

He told them “I do not want to mess up your position on this so please put it in an email. That was made clear.”

Farr said everything that was stated at the news conference, and contained in the release was “verbatim” from Global Spectrum’s email that he requested the company representatives send him.

“That was their response to that question about a casino,” said Farr.

Farr acknowledge he may have mistakenly inferred a casino development, with a comedy club, and other entertainment activities would impact the “major acts” that Live Nation would book at Copps and Hamilton Place.

“It’s about defining what a major act is,” said Farr. “We may have a disconnect. If it’s only that element that makes (Global Spectrum) to reconsider and are now a willing participant and find a casino advantage to their properties then, fine, let me know and we’ll each be on the same page on what a major act is. I’m willing to talk to them about that.”

After an arduous debate, councillor agreed to a series of motions that would that Hamilton would be a “willing host” for a gaming facility at Flamboro Downs. Councillors, though, also kept open an option to allow a possible downtown casino development.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will decide which company will operate a new expanded gaming operation within the Hamilton/Burlington area.

 

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