Council agrees to share of gaming revenues from Cascades Casino

Wednesday 11th March 2020

North Bay council has approved a new revenue-sharing agreement with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) detailing the percentage of revenues the city will receive from the soon-to-be-opened Cascades Casino.

A majority of council members voted in favour of the agreement Tuesday after discussing the matter in camera, or behind closed doors.

Details shared by the city show it will receive 5.25 per cent of the first $65 million generated from electronic gaming, or slots, as well as four per cent from live table games.

Mayor Al McDonald said the city did not have the ability to negotiate higher, although the agreement is consistent with those from other municipalities.

But depending on how many people visit the casino, he said the city could receive between $1 million to $2 million in gaming revenue a year, along with an additional $500,000 to $800,000 based on how much the building is assessed at.

"Personally to say arbitrarily is that significant or not, I would say that's a significant amount of revenue for the city," he said.

The agreement did receive opposition from some council members, including Coun. Scott Robertson, who voted against the deal in part over a clause that allows OLG to withdraw unilaterally if it chooses, while the city has no similar provision.

Robertson also questioned whether a mechanism exists to audit how much revenue the casino actually generates in order to ensure the city gets its fair share.

As part of the agreement, the city is expected to hold at least one community event a year to highlight the casino's contributions, which Robertson said "basically requires the city to be a cheerleader for the revenue" it gets and limits the city's ability to make certain comments.

Councillors Mark King and Marcus Tignanelli joined Robertson in voting against the agreement, while seven councillors voted in favour.

In response, deputy mayor Tanya Vrebosch said as a provincial corporation OLG would be audited.

She also said the agreement is standard between OLG and other municipalities, with city staff having done their due diligence to learn from neighbouring communities.

As for the amount of money the city will receive in gaming revenue, Vrebosch said similar-sized municipalities could be used as a reference to get a rough idea.

"But until we actually see the money in the bank, it's not in our budget yet," she said.

On the termination clause, McDonald pointed to the amount of money the company, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd., has put into the project, saying, "I can't imagine communities just arbitrarily just getting out of the casino business after somebody's made such a substantial investment."

The $31-million, 39,000-square-foot facility is under construction on Pinewood Park Drive, just south of Decaire Road.

The casino is expected to open this summer and create up to 300 jobs, some of which have been advertised in recent weeks.

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