Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chairman Paul Godfrey says Brantford has a strong casino that will retain its base of gamers as the provincial agency seeks to expand gambling revenues across Ontario.
The OLG has plans to expand Ontario’s gaming revenues by $1 billion by 2018 through attracting private-sector investment in five new casinos and existing facilities across the province.
The OLG currently provides the provincial government with $2 billion annually in support of health care and education.
Godfrey made the comment during a media conference held following a meeting and tour of OLG Casino Brantford with city Mayor Chris Friel and senior city staff on Friday afternoon.
“I think Mayor Friel has done such a fabulous job in redeveloping the downtown core of Brantford, making sure an integrated casino could be used for the betterment of the community,” Godfrey said. “I think it will be very difficult to attract people away from here. As I walked through this facility here today, I think they will be the least impacted.
“I realize everyone is concerned about cannibalization, everybody would like to see the status quo remain, but the OLG in their study…has tried to protect those host municipalities as much as we possibly can.”
Although it is likely that Brantford’s gamers would visit new casinos built in nearby cities, Godfrey said the city will retain its base of gaming patrons.
“We realize that some of the bigger facilities may get a visit from somebody from Brantford or somewhere else,” Godfrey said. “But I think that, all in all, if you beautify things the way they recently accomplished it here in Brantford, they should keep their base and even be able to build on it. The private sector coming in will do everything they can to maximize revenue for this community.”
Godfrey said gaming zones were established across Ontario to prevent the cannibalization of casino facilities as the planned expansion unfolds.
“This is the reason why we prepared zones,” he said. “We didn’t draw these circles and establish zones because we wanted it to be total cannibalization of things. We know people from Brantford go off to Niagara and we assume people from Hamilton come to Brantford. We also realize we have a responsibility.
“People in Brantford, Hamilton and other places in Ontario go to downtown Toronto to see a big play that happens to be in town, but they don’t constantly go there. I’m sure that if something is built in downtown Toronto, they will visit it from time to time. I expect that will happen, but I really believe that local facilities that help establish the community itself will remain very, very strong and we will encourage that with the private sector people. This is a magnet for drawing people from the area.”
Godfrey said he is confident Brantford will attract private-sector investment in its casino.
“I think Brantford will be a hot topic for discussion and interest with respect to the future of gaming in Ontario,” he said.
Friel said representatives from “four or five” companies have visited Brantford’s casino in relation to potential investment, but declined to name them.
“There has been interest expressed in secondary entertainment,” Friel said. “We have to have realistic expectations.
“They come here because they are looking at it from a business point of view. They are coming to Brantford because we are ready for them.”
The City of Brantford reaps about $4 million annually from OLG casino revenues.
The OLG currently has 24 gaming facilities in Ontario. The planned expansion will bring the total to 29 by 2018. New facilities in the GTA, North Bay, Belleville, Kenora and Collingwood or Wasaga Beach are under consideration.