In Canada, the councilors for the city of St Catharines have reportedly followed the lead of their counterparts in Niagara Falls by unanimously passing an official motion on Monday asking the Ontario Lottery And Gaming Corporation to halt the current process for selecting a new service provider to run the day-to-day operations of two area casinos.
According to a report from the St Catharines Standard newspaper, the resolution was proposed by local councilor Mike Britton and asks the Ontario casino regulator to terminate the existing procedure to select the future operator of the Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort before re-issuing its request for pre-qualification proposals with input from local stakeholders.
Niagara Falls has been home to the Casino Niagara since 1996 while the much larger Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort opened in 2004 with both owned by the Ontario Lottery And Gaming Corporation but managed by Toronto-based Falls Management Group. However, this current arrangement is reportedly due to expire in June of 2019 and the Crown corporation issued a request for pre-qualification proposals concerning its “Niagara Gaming Bundle” in mid-October so that it would be able to pre-approve prospective operators that are eligible to receive future request-for-proposal documents.
But, Niagara Falls councilors unanimously passed an official resolution asking the regulator to think again in late-October and this has now been followed by St Catherines, which is the largest city in the region with a population of approximately 133,000. Opponents are reportedly worried that the current request for pre-qualification proposals for designating a new operator could see the region lose up to 1,400 jobs as it contains only one of the four official objectives laid out by the 1996 directive.
“To think of the people that this would impact, it’s disheartening,” councilor Dave Haywood told the newspaper. “These people depend on this job. These people have spent almost 21 years there now. To have the chance that these jobs may disappear and have nothing to replace them, it’s something that everybody around here should be concerned about.”
The St Catharines Standard reported that the current request for pre-qualification proposals asks that potential operators provide revenues for the province but has left out the 1996 objectives of creating jobs and a lasting economic benefit while acting as a catalyst for economic development.
“It’s unfortunate the local stakeholders weren’t consulted but that probably would have slid if the plan turned out to be good,” Britton told the newspaper. “The problem was it was not. I don’t believe that’s right, that the only goal for this new modernization is to get revenues to the province. Frankly, they should be worried about job creation in Niagara as we all are.”
The St Catharines Standard reported that the Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort are the region’s two largest employers with more than 4,000 jobs while a recent third-party study conducted by HLT Advisory found that the current Ontario Lottery And Gaming Corporation plan could see the area lose up to 1,400 positions along with tens of millions of dollars for the local economy.
“We urge the government of Ontario to consult with local stakeholders as much as possible in this process,” Mishka Balsom, Chief Executive Officer for the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper. “Failing to do this would have significant negative consequences for Niagara.”
The St Catharines Standard reported that Monday’s resolution will now be sent to the area’s provincial parliamentarians while councilors moreover asked Jim Bradley, a member of the Legislative Assembly Of Ontario representing the St Catherines electoral district, to support an open letter defending the 1,400 jobs written by Alan Caslin, Chairman for the Regional Municipality Of Niagara, and Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati.
“For our union, it’s about protecting good paying [and] family-supporting jobs that benefit everyone,” Greg Brady from the local chapter of the Unifor trade union, which represents security workers at the two casinos, told the newspaper. “These hard-working people have their futures gambled with for the sake of balancing the provincial government’s books and it’s time for us to come together to fight back.”