Seven years after approval by the city, residents petition against new casino in Kenora, Ontario.
The city of Kenora has come a very long way over the years. For centuries, it served as a merchant port under the rules of various European nations. When it was incorporated as a trading post by France in 1882, it was called Portage-aux-Rats, or Rats Portage, meaning exactly what it sounds like. In 1905, it gained the more respectable title of Kenora, and the city has steadily flourished since.
By 2012, the city had swelled so much that it drew the attention of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Provincial regulators thought it was about time Kenora received its own small casino establishment, complete with 300 slot machines that would create an estimated 90 jobs in the community, and generate up to $6 million in revenue for the coffers of the municipality. The city wasted no time approving the plan, and over the coming years, an operator was sought to manage the build.
In 2016, OLG chose Gateway Casinos & Entertainment as the appropriate partner to take over the Northern Ontario casino bundle. With that bundle came the responsibility of building the Kenora casino that had been approved four years prior. However, the project was delayed by a challenge from the Wauzhushk Onigum tribe, who believed revitalization of the clsoed Golden Eagle Casino, which operated from 1994 to 2004, was a more appropriate route. A federal judge ruled against the First Nations tribe in June 2019.
Now here we are, seven years later, with a comprehensive proposal on the floor and construction crews eager to bid on the upcoming ground-breaking ceremony. Once again, the project may be put on hold as it seems the people of the city are no longer acquiesce to the plan.
Residents Petition Against New Casino in Kenora
A new petition began circulating the city recently, distributed by a number of local churches and an organization known as Making Kenora Home. They’re hoping to get enough signatures over the coming week to present the petition at an upcoming city council meeting on November 12.
Their aversion to the proposal isn’t the casino itself, but rather the location Gateway has chosen on which to build it. In fact, the proposal clearly states:
“…the issue is not the casino – it is WHERE it is located.”
Gateway Casinos is proposing to build the new 19,000 sq.ft. gambling establishment on the lot of the former Abitibi Mill, at the corner of Veterans Drive and Ninth Street. In order for this to happen, the city council must vote in favor of re-designating that area as a General Commercial Zone, capable of housing a casino or gaming facility.
Contentions in Petition Against Kenora Casino
The intent of the petition is to convince the council not to approve the proposed rezoning amendment. Signatories argue that the location is far too close to residential housing; “mere blocks from downtown on a busy corner and within visual and walking distance of a heavily populated residential area.”
Petitioners believe there are other parcels of land, just as large and well equipped with utility services, that are far enough from major commercial hubs and residential zones to avoid “adding to the congestion downtown and around schools.”
Furthermore, proponents argue that Gateway’s “very successful proprietary restaurants” (MATCH Eatery & Public House, and ATLAS Steak + Fish) would create “significant and unfair competition” for downtown businesses.