In May, almost five years to the day after the modernization program was announced, the new operator of Greater Sudbury's gambling facility will take the helm of the slots facility at Sudbury Downs.
Gateway Casinos, based in Burnaby, B.C., was awarded the contract for the Northern Bundle, which includes existing sites in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, as well as new locations in North Bay and Kenora.
Jake Pastore, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s director of municipal and community relations, said Wednesday that Gateway is in a 120 to 180-day transition period right now as it prepares to move in.
"Sometime in May we actually give them the keys to all the different sites," Pastore said.
He was in Sudbury to officially hand over a cheque for more than $2 million to the city, the local share of gaming revenue from Sudbury Downs.
"All of the employees will be transitioned to them,” Pastore said. “They'll assume the lease ... at the raceway and will continue to operate there until they talk to the City of Sudbury about what their next steps are. From that point forward, Gateway and OLG will be discussing what their plans are for the city."
After the province announced the casino building program in May 2012, the previous city council passed motions identifying downtown, the South End, The Kingsway and the current site in Chelmsford as the preferred locations for a new casino.
Mayor Brian Bigger said municipal officials have regular conversations with Gateway about their move into the city. When asked where the casino might go, Bigger said that's largely up to Gateway.
"Really, it's up to them to identify the best location for their casino within areas that have already been determined by previous councils,” he said. “So we're looking forward to hearing more about this as they take over the operations.
"They're not rushing into things. They're following their process. But obviously we have open communication with them."
Another resolution from the previous council called for a new casino operator to help with the construction of a new arena and convention centre as part of the casino build.
When asked what kind of force the motion would have, Bigger said it's too early to speculate.
"Gateway Casinos will build whatever amenities and features of a casino they feel are best for their facility,” he said. “They're aware, of course, of all of the projects going on in our community and it's up to them to make further decisions on where they'll be investing in our community."
Bigger acknowledged that some people opposed the idea of bringing a full-fledged casino to town.
"There have been mixed views, and we've heard those in the past,” he said. “But at this point and time, the OLG has gone through the process, it's been an open and transparent process. I'm quite sure there will be a lot of communication around the development of casino opportunities in the Sudbury area as Gateway moves forward."