The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) originally issued a Request for Information regarding interest in participating in the gaming industry in May of 2012, identifying North Bay and one of five cities that were preselected as potential construction sites for future casinos or Gaming Facilities. These actions have most recently faced a fair amount of backlash from the local community.
As of May 2016, the city had initiated two Zoning By-law Amendments to consider adding these facilities at two sites located within the city. Following a bidding process for the project, the OLG selected Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited to work on the casino in North Bay. Gateway’s senior vice-president of marketing and communications, Carrie Kormos, claims that the company plans to work together with the community before finalizing plans for the North Bay casino project.
Council heard an onslaught of warnings regarding the decision to move forward with the casino project at a council meeting Tuesday evening. Many of those in attendance made the argument that the construction and operation of such a casino would harm both businesses and residents of North Bay. Council allowed a collection of residents to voice their opinions at an open forum during the meeting. Among those speaking was a small business owner a representative of local churches, a Catholic nun who works with gambling addicts and a parent who has seen their daughter struggle with addiction.
Jane Howe, the representative from local churches, explained the difficulty they currently faced in regards to stretched resources. She labeled the local churches as “agencies of a last resort” and suggested that the construction of the new casino could lead to gambling addiction and other problems that could potentially lead local church resources being stretched even thinner.
Howe also addressed a 2012 report issued by Nipissing District Social Services Administration Board that detailed the potential impact of a casino in the city. The report estimated that the opening of the new casino would lead to 3,000 more problem gamblers in the community, which would certainly confirm Howe’s fears of stretching resources thinner. The report also put a price tag for the social costs of this new project between $3.8 million and $5.7 million.
One study conducted by Baylor University explored the hidden social costs of gambling. The study suggests that a community, roughly the size of North Bay could see $1 million in bankruptcies. This study was presented on Tuesday night by small business owner Michael Ianiro. Ianiro also referenced a recent survey he conducted of 70 local businesses on their views about the potential casino project. The results showed that 43 were against the casino while only 9 saw potential for a positive impact on the community.
Despite the overwhelming opposition from the community the council has supported the proposal up to this point and is expected to move forward with the project. The only details of the project that have been revealed thus far are that the planned casino is eligible for up to 300 slot machines and 120 live gaming seats. Moving forward, Kromos promises that community input and market research will be conducted in order to determine the details of the project. Mayor Al McDonald said on Tuesday that he and the council will need to know the full details of the proposed project before proceeding and has previously expressed his willingness to host negotiations with the community. Moving forward,