A new revenue-sharing agreement between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the City of Brantford should see slightly more casino money flow into the city’s coffers.
Under the terms of an informal agreement struck by Mayor Chris Friel in 1999, Brantford currently receives five per cent of gross revenues from 450 slot machines and two per cent from remaining machines at OLG Casino Brantford. That amounts to about $3.4 million annually.
The new deal will give the city 5.25 per cent of the first $65 million in net revenue from all of the casino’s 507 slot machines. The city would take in 3 per cent of the next $135 million and 2.5 per cent of the next $300 million.
If the new formula had been in place last year, the city would have received an additional $220,000 in revenue, said treasurer Cathy Brubacher.
Though council’s approval is required for the city to continue to receive casino money, the terms of the deal are set by the OLG and are non-negotiable, Brubacher said.
Councillors Dave Wrobel and Dan McCreary expressed concern that the agreement does not define “net revenue,” thus making revenues hard to predict. “We’re not really sure what our bottom line is going to be,” Wrobel said.
Coun. Richard Carpenter bristled at being “bullied” by the OLG, which he said imposed the terms of the new contract without any chance for the city to negotiate.
“We have to accept this contract or we’ll get nothing,” said Carpenter, who would rather the city dealt with the OLG as a collective, not what he called a “committee of one,” referring to Friel.
The mayor said he was “befuddled” by Carpenter’s opposition to a contract with a private corporation that brings in much-needed revenue to the city.
“If being bullied is being forced to accept more money and come out in a positive, more beneficial position, I just don’t see it,” Friel said. “We are not losing from this agreement. In fact, we’re coming out ahead.”
“We’ll see,” Carpenter replied.
Casino money helped revitalize the downtown core and build two university campuses, Friel said.
The city has committed existing and future casino funds to projects including the Stedman Community Hospice, the waterfront master plan, physician recruitment at Brantford General Hospital, the Gretzky centre, and a Highway 403 noise barrier.
Striking a formal contribution agreement with the city is part of the OLG’s modernization of the Brantford casino. Friel thinks increasing attendance and a recent building expansion mean the OLG sees the casino as a winner.