Ottawa Green-Lights Hard Rock Casino Expansion

Hard Rock Casino Ottawa approved for $318M expansion, with no limit on slot machines.

Hard Rock Casino Ottawa Project RenderingThe Hard Rock Casino at Rideau Carleton Raceway in Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa is about to get a whole lot bigger. Last night, City Council members held their final public meeting concerning the casino’s re-zoning application. If approved, it would allow the company to begin construction on a proposed $318 million expansion of the property.

City Council ended the evening’s session by embossing their stamp of approval on the application, following an affirmative 18-5 vote. With all the necessary green-lights aglow, construction is expected to get underway this summer.

Benefits Outweigh Concerns for Hard Rock Casino Ottawa Expansion

The expansion plans call for a 200-room Hard Rock Hotel, 2,500-seat Hard Rock Live theater, 1,200-car parking lot and numerous restaurants (including their famous Hard Rock Cafe). The project will be completed in multiple phases over a six-year period, and is estimated to produce 4,000 jobs, both for construction crews and permanent positions within the complex.

The City of Ottawa is anticipating twice the revenue in annual host municipality payments once the expansion is complete. Where the Canadian capitol has been generating between $5.5 and $6 million per year, Hard Rock’s plan could see that figure rise to $12 million.

That’s all well and good, but the plan also calls for a lot more gambling devices on the casino floor. The largest concern among councillors at Wednesday’s meeting was the potential for an increase in problem gambling. However, that concern was mostly limited to the five dissenting members who voted against the re-zoning application.

By approving the project, the gambling resort is green-lighted to install an additional 20 table games on the casino floor.

“It is clear that this is going to have an impact, especially on seniors and older adults in my community,” opined Coun. Catherine McKenney. “I’m really quite concerned about that.”

No Limit on Slot Machines at Ottawa Casino

The table games aren’t the only potential problem, but they are the only one councillors had any control over. The Hard Rock plans to install 750 new slot machines, which will bring their total to 2,000. However, they can add even more if and when they want.

While the city can regulate how many table games a casino offers, it has no say in the number of slot machines. That is up to provincial regulators at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). City Council thought they took control of slot limitations back in 2013, but were recently advised by city staff that the limitation they debated five years ago was never amended to zoning bylaws. It is therefore unenforceable.

Coun. McKenney moved to instate a cap of 2000 slot machines, but the motion was voted down 8-15. Coun. Eli El Chantiry was one of the nay-sayers in that vote, objurgating his colleagues for “being a nanny state.”

Mayor Jim Watson agreed with Chantiry, telling CBC News that the provincial government is in charge of regulating gambling, as well as the prevention of problem gambling. “For us to go and take that responsibility on, it would be the same as us saying, ‘Well, let’s take over highway maintenance, let’s take over hospitals’.”

At last week’s rural affairs committee meeting, representatives from the Hard Rock Casino Ottawa did assure the community that they have no intention of further expanding the game availability for at least the next few decades.

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