Monday , November 23 2020

Casino giant ink page deal with leaving the Western Fair District



An artist's early drawing shows a hotel and casino at the Western Fair, part of a proposal from Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. Gateway is now planning to find its new complex along Wonderland Road, north of Wharncliffe Road, on a property owned by the concrete firm N-J Spivak. (Abandoned)

Canada's largest private casino operator has killed plans for a new hotel, restaurant and casino complex in the Western Fair District in London, instead of signing an agreement at a place in the southern end of the city – a move Western Fair President Hugh Mitchell calls disappointing but not unexpected.

Gateway casinos and entertainment that run the slot machines at the Western Fair District are now planning to find their new complex along Wonderland Road, north of Wharncliffe Road, on a property owned by the N-J Spivak concrete firm.

"I can confirm that we have signed a lease to find on Wonderland Road near the intersection with Wharncliffe Road," said Rob Mitchell, a gateway spokesman, The Free Press.

Losing the casino would clearly leave a major gap in Western Fair District attractions, but its president insisted that it was "early days to really determine the ultimate impact."

"Never closes a door where someone else does not open. We handle this news. We are an organization that has been around for 100 years and we have had our share of adversity over the years," Hugh Mitchell told The Free Press Wednesday.

"I'm convinced we'll find a way forward, but we need state aid."

Hugh Mitchell, CEO of Western Fair District (File photo)

Premier Doug Ford has promised his support for the horse racing industry – another major revenue generator for the Western Fair. Its president says that attraction has an economic spin in the region worth tens of thousands of dollars and 5,000 jobs.

Gateway's leasing would put the casino giant close to the big box retail corridor on Wonderland between Southdale and Exeter roads and comes after more than a year of what the company called slow negotiations between itself, the City Hall and Western Fair, from which the British Columbia-based Gateway had sought a better deal for its multimillion dollar lease.

Rob Mitchell would not comment on the plan on the new site, including whether it would include a hotel that the company had suggested at the Western Fair.

"It would be too early to comment on how the development of the new site will look until we have had a sufficient chance to investigate the property," he said.

When the company first made the expanded casino at the Western Fair, with 1,200 slot machines and 46 board games, it brought $ 140 million in investment and suggested 700 new jobs would be created.

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However, the company agreed to continue the annual lease agreement of 6.2 million. USD with Western Fair and Town Hall after taking over the operations from the Slots Casino from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) in 2017, who want to buy the land directly or negotiate a better deal after the expiry of the agreement by 2020.

Gateway would have to get rezoning to the website on Wonderland Road before it could build a casino.

Coun. Anna Hopkins, whose department includes the property Wonderland Road, said she would like to hear more about what the Gateway plans for the place now where the planned relocation to the southwest of the city is confirmed.

"Some people in society support it and some people do not. We must understand what is suggested," she said.

"This is a very hard for me. Of course I'm worried about the social consequences, but jobs are jobs."

The last city council whose mandate ended with the October elections was concerned about the impact of a big new casino on gambling addiction and other social effects in London.

It has been more than a year since the Gateway presented its plans for politicians describing a two-year, two-step project, including a 125-room hotel. The council approved extended games at the Western Fair and later rezoned the property to allow the casino complex.

Gateway took over casino operations from the Ontario government in both northern and southwestern Ontario as the province began to get out of direct running game operations.

The operations Gateway took over in Southwestern Ontario include places in Woodstock and Point Edward, where the company spent $ 26 million on a casino renovation. Gateway has also started working on a new casino of $ 36 million in Chatham.

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