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Old Posted Mar 13, 2012, 5:19 PM
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New casino?

Flamboro Downs must survive OLG shake-up: Councillors

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/ar...up-councillors

City councillors are attempting to piece together a plan for gambling in Hamilton in the wake of an announcement heralding a massive shake-up of gaming in the province.

Councillors Judi Partridge and Robert Pasuta, represent the rural areas around the Flamboro Downs racetrack and slots. They’re concerned about the future of the track and the farmers who rely on it after the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission said it plans to close several venues. There’s also the potential that slot machines will be expanded beyond racetracks or removed from Flamboro Downs.

“I want to wait and see what the whole story is. Were getting the information out of Queen’s Park in dribs and drabs,” Partridge said. “I’m more concerned about Flamboro Downs and what the future holds. Ideally, I’d like to see it stay the way it is.”

“If they pull the slots from Flamboro Downs, the horse racing will be dead as well. I can’t support that at all,” Pasuta said. “It will be devastating for the horse industry.”

Meanwhile, other councillors are already suggesting a new casino downtown or on the waterfront should Flamboro Downs face closure.

“I believe ideally we must first and foremost mitigate the local issues surrounding Flamborough horse farmers,” said Councillor Sam Merulla. “Secondly we should review a casino downtown or on the waterfront measuring against social concerns.”

“We remain hopeful that the (Flamboro) will continue to operate for years to come at its current location,” said Councillor Chad Collins. “However, if the province has plans to close its doors, we’ll need to weigh our options as it relates to opening a new one downtown or on the waterfront. We've received so little information, it's hard to speculate.”
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2012, 5:20 PM
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If we do get a replacement for Flamboro Downs than put it at the Convention Centre and build a new Convention Centre, something like the Direct Energy Centre.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 5:38 AM
bigguy1231 bigguy1231 is offline
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If we do get a replacement for Flamboro Downs than put it at the Convention Centre and build a new Convention Centre, something like the Direct Energy Centre.
That was my thought.

The present convention centre is basically useless because of it's size. It's too small.

They could use the city's share of the revenue to help finance a new convention centre.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 12:08 PM
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I think it's a money losing proposition. The house always wins, and we're not the house.

Flamboro Downs apparently has 801 slot machines, representing around 7% of all racetrack slots in the province. Under the new scatter-plot strategy, it's not clear how many of those would remain in Hamilton, and whether they would be in a single, fixed location in the GHA.

It's also unclear what in the way of production value would be brought to the table (my guess is bare bones), or what the business thinking is here, considering that the province's marquee casinos are losing money and OLG seems to be shifting to a private sector ownership model as a result. How that squares with the HECFI negotiations is another unknown.

The city has netted around $4.4 million annually on average over the last decade, but that's now a wild card since the province has terminated the current profit-sharing arrangement that will be a wild card once the current profit-sharing arrangement ends. And of course whatever Hamilton's cut of the action ends up being, there will likely be political pressure to split that take 15 ways.... Flamborough probably being the most vocal in this regard.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 12:56 PM
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An afterhought:

Five existing OLG casinos paid out an average of $2.4 million to host municipalities in 2009-2010 (the existing OLG profit sharing model gives host municipalities 5% of slot revenue up to 450 machines and 2% of slot revenue over 450 machines). That bottom line will possibly get a bump from the closure of slots at tracks but may be dampened as a couple of dozen new OLG casinos come on the market.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 5:20 PM
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Flamboro Downs escapes as OLG axes slots in Fort Erie, Windsor and Sarnia

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/ar...sor-and-sarnia

The slots at Flamboro Downs are safe, said the province’s top gaming executive.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. confirmed the “permanent closure” of slots operations at racetracks in Fort Erie, Windsor and Sarnia this morning.

But Rod Phillips, the president and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., said the slots at Flamboro Downs are not on the chopping block along with Fort Erie, Windsor and Sarnia.

“These are the only closures that they’re talking about,” he said.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 7:23 PM
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And yet:

However, that doesn’t mean Flamboro Downs will be unaffected by the changes. The OLG is still considering two “relocations” of existing facilities to bring gaming closer to densely populated areas. Phillips wouldn’t say whether Flamboro is being considered for a move.

“We’re not talking about the specifics now,” he said. “There will be a lot of moving parts…the next 12 to 18 months are going to be very busy doing this work.”

Phillips also said that the OLG will continue to closely monitor the performance of its venues and won’t shy away from considering other closures if necessary.
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 12:55 AM
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I like casinos, I like to gamble... but I don't think putting a casino in the middle of a relatively low-income downtown is a good idea. Seems counter-productive.

Also, anytime I've ever been to Flamboro Downs, it's always busy and based on the profit-sharing payments that come to the city, it must be doing alright as it is.

Hamilton needs jobs downtown, not more places for the un-/under-employed to unproductively spend their time
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 12:29 PM
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Entertainment option

A casino downtown would have a downside with the location being used by the bored or usual downtown vagrants.
However, if we plan to maybe utilize our tourist or visitor (conventions), we are getting more hotels and if and when McMaster gets moved in we need options for visitors.
Cities like Halifax, Sault Ste Marie have used their casino as a short cab ride and a evening out. Other cities have 3 times the amount of hotel rooms. And they get national or international gatherings. London is an viable option.
What do we have downtown for the evening? Copps, Convention center, yes, and Hess village is a nice touch. We even have a movie theatre in Jackson Sq.
Maybe just maybe a casino could have used the Discovery centre or in the immediate vicinity. Boats could dock and it would eventually be a waterfront destination.
Flamborough has it's good points but it is quite a drive, and if you were to indulge in a couple drinks on your evening out. Bring jobs and entertainment into urban areas and leave the land to farming as we may need it in the near future or to exercise the 100 mile rule.
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 3:15 PM
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Casino Coach runs buses three times daily Mon-Sun from Hunter Go and Limeridge to Niagara's two casinos. Costs $12 (the Casino Niagara coach throws in $10 slot reward or a free lunch buffet, depending on when you schedule).

Flamboro Downs also runs shuttle buses three times daily from downtown Mon-Sat. Not sure what it costs.

I still think casinos area lame substitute for cultural or economic vitality (in fact, studies suggest they tend to rob adjacent business districts of spending), the payout for host municipalities will be paltry going forward, and casinos will likely be more modest in size. You could be talking about as few as 100-200 slots in a given locale.

Delta Bingo will be all over that action. It would transform the core.
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 8:16 PM
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Casino Coach runs buses three times daily Mon-Sun from Hunter Go and Limeridge to Niagara's two casinos. Costs $12 (the Casino Niagara coach throws in $10 slot reward or a free lunch buffet, depending on when you schedule).

Flamboro Downs also runs shuttle buses three times daily from downtown Mon-Sat. Not sure what it costs.

I still think casinos area lame substitute for cultural or economic vitality (in fact, studies suggest they tend to rob adjacent business districts of spending), the payout for host municipalities will be paltry going forward, and casinos will likely be more modest in size. You could be talking about as few as 100-200 slots in a given locale.

Delta Bingo will be all over that action. It would transform the core.
Personally, I won't go to small casino's with a limited number of machines. I prefer the larger ones with more choice and a real casino atmosphere.

The government has basically stated that they want to consolidate their casino assets into fewer but larger locations. I think we are going to see many of the racetrack slots casino's closing over the next few years and being reborn as full fledged casino's in urban settings.

If the city drags it's feet getting on board with this new thinking we could very easily find ourselves losing what we do have to a place like Burlington who would more than likely embrace having a casino in their downtown core.

As for what some people have been saying about attracting the wrong elements to the downtown, there is absolutely no evidence to that effect. Just look at Brantford where the casino is basically downtown, you never see any seedy types hanging around the outside of the casino. The same goes for Niagara Falls and Windsor and all three of those cities are much worse off economically than this city.

The people who go to casino's have money to spend, whether it is their own or borrowed. Poor people or at least people we associate with being down and out do not go to casino's.
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 11:09 PM
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I generally take the opinion that casinos are not an effective renewal strategy. However bigguy makes a valid point that they bring people with money in their pockets. If it were to come up as a possibility, I would have an open mind and come up with an opinion based on evidence.

Do casino patrons spend on food or entertainment in the area, or is it a one stop shop?

What is the impact of parking? Will it feed demand for cheap surface lots that paralyze downtown, or will people pay for underground parking?

Does crime tend to go up with the introduction of a casino? Poor people don't have a monopoly on crime.

Hamilton has had several megaprojects with unintended consequences because they were based on foregone conclusions. On the other hand, we have the space for it. I'm sure they could fit a casino in the vacant part of Jackson Square.
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Old Posted Mar 24, 2012, 9:47 PM
bigguy1231 bigguy1231 is offline
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I generally take the opinion that casinos are not an effective renewal strategy. However bigguy makes a valid point that they bring people with money in their pockets. If it were to come up as a possibility, I would have an open mind and come up with an opinion based on evidence.

Do casino patrons spend on food or entertainment in the area, or is it a one stop shop?

What is the impact of parking? Will it feed demand for cheap surface lots that paralyze downtown, or will people pay for underground parking?

Does crime tend to go up with the introduction of a casino? Poor people don't have a monopoly on crime.

Hamilton has had several megaprojects with unintended consequences because they were based on foregone conclusions. On the other hand, we have the space for it. I'm sure they could fit a casino in the vacant part of Jackson Square.
Casino patrons usually eat in the casino if it has decent options. I get free meal vouchers all the time from the various casino's I go to. But then again most of them are away from urban areas and the options are limited except for places like Niagara where there are alternatives right outside the door.

As for the parking, all casino's around here have their own parking facilities either surface or multi level garages where parking is provided free of charge for people with a players club card. The cards are free to anyone who patronizes the casino.
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Old Posted Mar 26, 2012, 12:26 PM
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It really depends how the gaming market expands. Just as local hockey fans may choose the Leafs or Sabres over the Bulldogs, so too might some new casinos draw better than others. Would a casino in and of itself be a driver for tourism? I have a hard time believing that, but I suppose it's possible.

National Post, Mar 12, 2012, Finance Minister bets on gaming changes to save Ontario’s economy:

...a near-parity Canadian dollar, combined with passport requirements at the border and competition from new American casinos, have devastated Ontario’s gaming business. U.S. visits to those casinos have dropped to 7 million from 23 million annually in 2002, OLG says. Casino revenue of $800-million in 2001 was down to $100-million last year.... OLG plans to reorient its casino business away from the border model and toward one that puts more gaming houses in underserved communities. It wants to go where the people are — somewhere in the GTA, specifically, and also somewhere else as yet undetermined.... Mr. Godfrey said Monday that OLG is “prepared to move forward immediately” with its plans for change, a process that among other things will divide local councils — including that of Toronto, which at the moment really doesn’t need any more reasons to be divided — into pro-casino and anti-casino factions. Mr. Duncan, similarly, said no further mulling of the OLG proposals was required. “We’ve given them the green light,” he said, on all of their recommendations, from casinos to online gaming to privatization.

The OLG also plans to open up the floodgates on lotteries and expand online gambling as well.

And of course OLG also deals in bingo operations, so Hamilton could wind up with a more robust bingo community.

As far as the cash flow, it has been estimated that problem gamblers represent 2% of the gaming population but account for 30% of of gaming cash flow. This is in part why the OLG has bankrolled $50 million in addiction awareness campaigns (and the Big Brother-style facial recognition systems that help enforce its self-exclusion program). Paltry in comparison to the revenue they take in, but the optics are rosy.

I think the crime trends are overblown. Casinos always strike me as big box stores without the traffic flow. They're a destination with a defined purpose and an establishment designed to hold customers onsite until they have extracted as much money from them as possible. That will probably not change when they privatize, as planned. The one thing that may change if and when they privatize these casinos is the cost-sharing structure with municipalities.

Everyone's been talking waterfront/downtown, but as with the stadium debate, don't discount the possibilty of something in the vicinity of Stonechurch & Dartnall. Albion Falls Casino, anyone?
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Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 1:48 AM
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Worries for horse industry as OLG pulls out of Flamboro Downs

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/ar...flamboro-downs

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is looking for a private-sector operator to run the slots at Flamboro Downs or elsewhere in the community after it ends its site-holder agreement at the racetrack next year.

The province’s gaming agency notified the track’s operating company, the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, last week that it would terminate its lease and funding of the machine parlour starting March 31, 2013.

Over the weekend, OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti said it plans to put out a request for proposals (RFP) with specific requirements sometime in the fall to private-sector operators interested in running the facility.

“What are the plans specifically for Flamboro Downs? I can’t tell you that because we don’t even know ourselves. What we’re doing right now is looking toward a regulated, private-sector operator to come in,” Bitonti said.

If there is interest in Flamboro Downs, the slots could stay at the current Highway 5 site or move elsewhere in the community, he said.

The OLG announced last month it was ending its Slots at Racetracks program, which was established in 1998 and splits more than $350 million annually among track operators and horse associations.

MPP Ted McMeekin said he hoped the RFP would be issued with a requirement for a horse racing component in a new deal. “Given that decision (about the Slots at Racetracks program) has been taken, I’m looking for the next best solution.”

But local councillors are worried changes to the funding formula or relocation of the slots would be a huge blow to the horse industry.

The Ontario Harness Horse Association currently receives 10 per cent of Flamboro Downs’ slots revenue. The city receives a blended 5 per cent and 2 per cent cut.

“We need the combination of having the horses there. The racetrack … keeps the horse industry alive,” Ward 14 Councillor Robert Pasuta said.

He has heard “rumblings” of moving the slots downtown, he said. “That won’t work … You have to save the horse industry. It’s agriculture. It involves farmers who supply hay, greens, all the small suppliers of feed and harness equipment.”

Councillor Judi Partridge said there wasn’t a lot of information coming out, but she is scheduled to meet with OLG executives April 24 along with Pasuta and the mayor to seek more clarity about the city’s involvement.

The “spillover” economic development from the horse race industry would also be affected if the slots leave, as there are veterinarians, farm equipment sellers and pharmaceutical businesses that depend on the horse racing industry, she said.

“People are scared. They are really scared,” Partridge said. “This is their livelihood … You take that away — what are they supposed to do?”

Great Canadian Gaming also received notice the OLG was terminating its lease at Georgian Downs in Barrie last Thursday.

A press release issued by Great Canadian Gaming indicated the “future profitability of Georgian Downs and Flamboro Downs will be negatively affected” if the OLG does not enter a new agreement with the operator.

Spokesperson Howard Blank said Saturday the company will wait for official word from the OLG about possible negotiations before commenting on whether it will put together a proposal.

“We are Canada’s largest gaming and entertainment operator, so if there are opportunities afforded us, we will look at that like we do any opportunity for the company,” Blank said.

Cambridge resident Tim Morgan, 49, hits the slot machines at Flamboro Downs once a month. On Sunday, he said he was concerned moving the slots would cause the whole facility to close.

“They go hand in hand. I usually come with friends of mine and they both come for the horses,” he said.

Alberta Marchant, 78, agreed. Marchant, who lives near the racetrack, has been going to the slot parlour every couple of weeks for three years. “If you take the slots out, the horses will go too,” she said.
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Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 2:09 AM
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Seems like a real possibility the slots will relocate to downtown Hamilton, more accessible and more customers.

Though I wonder under the RFP what it defines as "community", within City of Hamilton?
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Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 10:44 AM
thistleclub thistleclub is offline
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Could be CMA. Could be more vague than that -- Caledonia is part of the Flamboro Downs "community" by virtue of its economic ties to the facility. Has anyone considered the possibility of a Six Nations casino?

Will be interesting to see how the profit-sharing arrangement changes as a result of privatization. Third-party operators aren't going to back a money-losing play and they're only going to splash out on production values if they think they'll recoup. If the province is chintzy, we'll end up with penny ante casinos. Which, come to think of it, would be right at home in the sea of convenience store and payday loan brokerages downtown.
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Old Posted Apr 3, 2012, 11:59 AM
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Slots Opportunity Piques Mercanti’s Interest (Meredith MacLeod, Hamilton Spectator, Apr 3 2012)

The province is throwing open the Flamboro Downs gaming slots licence to bidders, and banquet centre operator Peter Mercanti says he’s interested.

“It’s certainly something I would look at. There’s no guarantees but I would take a look,” said Mercanti, owner of Carmen’s banquet centre and the new C Hotel on the Mountain and the Lakeview ballroom at Confederation Park. He’s also bidding to take over the city-owned Hamilton Convention Centre.

“If there’s an opportunity to keep that money in our city, that’s important,” Mercanti said of the slot business. “I’m not an advocate of gambling but if it’s a money-maker, as a businessman you have to take a look.”

He expects there will be a lot of interest in a future request for proposal (RFP) to operate a slot licence currently held by Flamboro Downs’ owner Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.

Great Canadian Gaming was notified last week by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation that its deal to operate slots at the racetrack will expire next March. It’s part of the province’s move to end the Slots at Racetracks program, which shared gaming revenue with track operators and horse associations.

OLG will issue an RFP to interested parties in the fall. Great Canadian Gaming said it was reviewing its options.

Mercanti would only consider locating a slot facility downtown or at the current location.

“Why not keep it where it is? Why build brand new?”

Paul Burns, vice-president of the Canadian Gaming Association, says he expects Great Canadian Gaming will actively pursue the slot deal, saying the company is an experienced and successful operator across the country.

“Flamboro Downs is well situated as a regional tourist destination … It’s got a good location, access to a large population base and good transportation links. It has lots going for it.”

Along with the details of the government’s proposal, the impact of a future GTA casino will also play a role for bidders, says Burns.

“It could have no effect or it could have a large effect, but right now, the Toronto area is underserviced when it comes to gaming.”

Others at the top of the most-obvious candidates list to operate a local slots facility say they won’t be taking a shot at the licence.

Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc., the Waterfront Trust and former Flamboro Downs owner Charles Juravinski all say they won’t make a bid.
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Old Posted Apr 4, 2012, 7:19 AM
bigguy1231 bigguy1231 is offline
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Could be CMA. Could be more vague than that -- Caledonia is part of the Flamboro Downs "community" by virtue of its economic ties to the facility. Has anyone considered the possibility of a Six Nations casino?
The Brantford casino is considered the Six Nations casino.
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Old Posted Apr 4, 2012, 11:32 AM
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I am wondering if a casino floor is the missing element that would allow for the Royal Connaught's revival as an actual hotel...
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