City staff say there's “interest” brewing about building a casino in Hamilton — but not even council is allowed to know who's behind it.
Tim McCabe, the city's director of economic development and planning, said he has had “absolutely confidential” discussions about a new gambling facility in the city.
“I have had some discussions through a third party, and there is some interest in Hamilton,” McCabe said.
McCabe's comments came about after Councillor Sam Merulla put forward a motion asking for a moratorium on any new gaming facility in the city until the public can vote in a referendum on the issue during the 2014 municipal election.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced a massive “modernization” earlier this year that includes plans for one casino in the Hamilton/Burlington area. It's still not clear whether that means Flamboro Downs will remain open — council's preference — or whether a new facility will be built.
Though Merulla's argued that locating a new casino in the city would be as contentious as the Pan Am stadium debate, McCabe warned councillors that passing Merulla's motion could potentially cut the city off from millions of dollars' worth of investment. Councillors were divided about whether or not to approve the referendum.
Councillor Judi Partridge said the city's role is “not to roll over or chase an elusive carrot” and criticized the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, arguing the city has “a chance to say no, and to be in the driver's seat.”
Mayor Bob Bratina argued that the city should be open to all possibilities.