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Four sites under consideration for Sudbury casino

Developers have shown interest in building a casino in four locations in Greater Sudbury, city councillors will hear this week. In a report prepared for the Aug.
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Based on discussions with city staff, developers have expressed interest in building a casino in the city’s South End, The Kingsway East, at Sudbury Downs, where the current slots facility is located, and in downtown Sudbury. A final decision is expected by the end of the year or in early 2013. file photo

Developers have shown interest in building a casino in four locations in Greater Sudbury, city councillors will hear this week.

In a report prepared for the Aug. 14 meeting of city council, staff says they have been in contact with more than a dozen potential suitors for a casino, which will be built somewhere in the city under a plan announced in the spring by the province.

“In some cases, these contacts were the result of outreach by municipal staff, while others made contact with us,” the report read. “Throughout the interactions with all private sector proponents, staff has been careful to acknowledge that council has not adopted an official position on the question of the desired location for a new facility. We have indicated that there is a latent interest in seeing what amenities might be leveraged as part of this opportunity, either directly or indirectly.”

Based on those discussions, developers have expressed interest in building a casino in the city’s South End, The Kingsway East, at Sudbury Downs, where the current slots facility is located, and in downtown Sudbury.

In May, the Ontario Lottery Corporation announced it was ending its revenue-sharing deal with racetracks across the province in favour of building new, full-fledged casinos in gaming zones across Ontario. On the day of the announcement, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci immediately supported building the casino downtown, and having a performing arts facility and convention centre included with it.

City council later passed a motion affirming its interest in a casino, but hasn’t supported a specific part of the city. However, they do favour having the arts facility and convention centre part of the casino plan. Previous attempts to build such facilities have failed because of a lack of interest from the private sector, and the cost to taxpayers of building them with public money.

Based on the four parts of the city that the private-sector is interested in, city staff is preparing an analysis of each location, detailing such information as what amenities are in the area, population density and traffic levels.

“Staff intend to collate this information into an overview document which can be shared with all potential proponents,” the report says.

While the OLG won’t say which companies have shown interest in building a casino, one developer in Sudbury has admitted interest. Vista Hospitality, which owns the Rainbow Centre, participated in the first part of the process – the request for information – in hopes of eventually seeing the casino located in its downtown mall.

Amin Visram, CEO of Vista, said his company has experience in the casino industry, having been a licensed casino operator in Reno, Nevada.

“We bought the Flamingo Hilton in 2001 in Reno,” Visram said, in a July 20 interview from his Kitchener office. “We converted that to the Golden Flamingo Hotel and Casino in 2002, and we sold it in 2006. So we were casino licensees in the State of Nevada.”

OLG spokesperson Rumi Brum said the next step in the process is the request for pre-qualification, in which potential casino owners must demonstrate they have the money, expertise and capability of building and operating a casino. The RFPQs should be issued this month, he said.

“This is a process where we will go through the qualifications of the bidders (to ensure) those requesters are qualified to run a casino,” he said. “And only those requesters that have been pre-qualified will be able to move on to the RFP (request for proposals).”

Brum said the request for proposals -- the last stage in the process before a successful bidder is selected – should happen sometime in fall.

The city staff report says that they have already been contacted by a company that has “ranked Greater Sudbury highly in their RFI submission and would like to look at potential sites and discuss the city’s requirements and interests for the project.”

To make it clear what the city is looking for in a casino development, staff recommends city council pass a resolution outlining the city’s preferences, saying they would prefer “proponents to maximize benefits to the community by identifying and developing opportunities for ancillary and complementary amenities as part of their proposal.”

Part of the resolution would also make it clear that the city would be willing to sell land to a developer that commits to building the “ancillary and complementary amenities which benefit the Greater Sudbury community.”