Mayors press premier to work with casinos on reopening plans
LONDON, ONT. -- With casinos still closed in the region, municipalities feeling the financial impacts are speaking up.
“You can’t open a casino with only 50 people in the door not in a practical way anyways,” says Drew Dilkens, Mayor of Windsor.
In a letter obtained by CTV News, 25 mayors who make up the Casino Host Municipalities Group express concern about the “significant job losses and economic impact” caused by the ongoing closure of casinos.
Casinos have remained closed since March 16.
In the summer, they were granted permission under Stage 3 COVID-19 rules to reopen with a cap of 50 patrons.
But in their letter the mayors say the 50 person cap is “not workable”.
According to the Canadian Gaming Association, about 17,000 employees of the gaming industry are out of work in Ontario.
Revenue saying agreements remit $140 million each year to 25 municipalities and First Nations.
The mayors ask the Premier, Minister of Finance, Minister of Health, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health to review the gaming industry’s proposed measures to increase the cap on patrons to a “reasonable facility capacity”.
“We want to open in a safe responsible manner,” says Paul Burns, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. “We think we can do that. With higher capacities than fifty people, but not huge capacities. We’re still talking very very reduced numbers.”
Several casinos near Toronto has indicated they will reopen September 28 with no more than 50 customers.
“It’s amazing what can happen in a week in the era of COVID,” admits London Mayor Ed Holder.
In London, more than 300 current jobs, a new casino, and more than $4 million a year in revenue sharing is at stake.
Holder says the September 10 letter was sent before local COVID 19 cases began to climb.
“The Premier has made it clear his government is not going to expand beyond fifty, given the way the health factors have turned negatively in the province,” says Holder. “I can’t disagree with the Premier.”
Burns says the gaming industry would like to start direct dialogue with provincial leadership.
“Between the gaming industry and Ontario’s public health officials there has been no direct dialogue. We’ve been working through other ministries, working through others.” he says.
Mayor Dilkens emphasizes the need to prepare for reopening when pandemic numbers permit.
“Can we have the discussions now, so when we get to the point where it’s safe, we’ve thought through what this will look like, and can push a button and go.”
The Host Municipalities Group is made up of 25 mayors from Ontario including Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, London, Chatham-Kent, and Windsor.