A day after more than 23,600 of Kingston’s electorate voted “NO” to the government’s Kingston casino plans, Finance Minister Charles Sousa gave assurance that the provincial government of Ontario will not insist on relocating to Kingston City, the Thousand Island Casino currently located in Gananoque, a town in Leeds and Grenville United Counties. The Minister reiterated the provincial government’s longstanding policy of letting communities decide whether they want a casino; if a community prefers not to have one, the provincial government will not impose.
The “NO” votes won by a wide margin at 67.1 percent of the votes cast for the referendum question, as the “YES” was able to muster only 11,580. Although the voter turnout was less than 50 percent of Kingston’s registered voters, and therefore technically not legally binding, Kingston Mayor-elect Bryan Paterson and the city council members acknowledged that the result denotes the people of the city is not willing to host a land-based casino. The Kingston Mayor said that he had predicted that the “NO” vote will prevail but not as overwhelming; one, which he considers as good since it puts the casino issue to final rest.
Erika Demchuk, the re-elected mayor of Gananoque is quite pleased with the outcome and conveyed her gratitude to Kingstonians, because it means that Gananoque will not experience another huge job loss considering the Thousand Islands Casino has over 400 people in its employ. She also disclosed that Gananoque had already lost a lot of factories, which had previously resulted to a significant job loss.
Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds-Grenville who probed the Minister on the matter last Tuesday during Question Period, stated that Minister Sousa’s assurance meant that the Township of Leeds and Thousand Islands (TLTI) and Gananoque, could now move forward with the Thousand Islands Casino expansion plans. Accordingly, the TLTI with the concurrence of Gananoque, has plans of rezoning the casino property in order to give the new casino owner enough space in which to build a higher edifice with convention centres and retail shops.
The Ontario Lotteries and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is still accepting bids coming from private companies interested to develop and operate the Thousand Islands Casino and other possible gaming sites in Eastern Ontario, but only up to December 2014. The town of Gananoque hopes to have knowledge of the identity of the new operator and the potential plans, by January or February in 2015.
Tony Bitonti, the Manager of Media Relations at OLG, sent email statements as response to interview questions pertaining to the outcome of the Kingston casino referendum. He wrote. “We respect municipal choice and will only go where we are welcomed.” The OLG spokesperson indicated that there is no shortage as far as “willing host communities” are concerned because the OLG has received expressions of willingness to host a casino, coming from 40 other municipalities in Ontario’s gaming zones. Bitonti added that in addition to the 40, ten municipalities, albeit currently not included in the gaming zone have likewise expressed interest in hosting a casino.