Eugene Melnyk, one of Canada's most high-profile racehorse owners, has announced to the media that he is furious over Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson's decision to now only consider the Rideau Carleton Raceway as the only acceptable location for casino expansion.
As a report by the Ottawa Business Journal explains, Melnyk, who is also the owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators, wants Ottawa City Council to vote against Mayor Watson's upcoming motion on the issue.
Mayor Watson announced earlier this week that his motion will only support expansion at Rideau Carleton Raceway and that a casino anywhere else is no longer an option.
According to the Ottawa Business Journal, Melnyk owns property close to Scotiabank Place, where the Ottawa Senators play their home games. The report states that Melnyk was eagerly anticipating the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s casino Request for Pre-Qualification process to start, and that he saw the location as "logical" for casino expansion.
The contents of Melnyk's open letter on the situation appears below.
Late yesterday, Mayor Watson issued a public letter to his Council colleagues to inform them of his intention to table a notice of motion at today’s regularly scheduled FEDCO meeting. The Mayor did in fact proceed with officially tabling this notice.
The motion’s sole intent is to declare the Rideau Carleton Raceway (RCR) as “the only acceptable location for an expanded gaming facility in Ottawa.”
I will begin by saying that for those who are unaware, I am an avid horseman. I race thoroughbred horses all over the world including in Ontario so I fully appreciate the challenges and what is at stake as it relates to the future of Rideau Carleton Raceway and the many employees and families who are so closely associated with its operations. These are hard working men and women who I respect immensely.
Some councilors have suggested they support the Mayor’s motion in part because it eliminates the debate of potentially locating the casino downtown. Indeed, it eliminates this debate but it more astoundingly eliminates any future, thoughtful consideration to other, more viable sites that would, in my opinion, return greater financial and non-financial benefits to our great city.
Over the years, many have posed the question whether I would be interested in having a casino located on my site to benefit and complement the many sports and entertainment activities currently taking place. Experienced gaming service providers who understand fully the complexity involved in considering an optimal site for a major casino in Ottawa have told us our site with over two-million-plus visitors annually serviced by the largest parking lot in Eastern Ontario and its location offering high visibility adjacent to a major provincial highway makes for a perfect location.
I have patiently waited for the OLG to complete its Request for Pre-Qualification (RFPQ) process from which will emerge three to five shortlisted and highly qualified operators who no doubt will have lots to say about where a casino should be located to best serve Ottawa now and in the future. And, I am confident that if due process were to unfold, my site would be a highly logical and reasonable alternative.
Unfortunately, the Mayor’s decision to submit this notice of motion will eliminate any and all discussions with the shortlisted service providers about selecting an optimal location for Ottawa’s future casino. By introducing this motion, the Mayor has effectively sole sourced the casino’s location. That is not due process.
I think the people of Ottawa would have much to say if it was determined that an alternate site could generate an incremental $40-50 million in gaming revenue compared to the “only acceptable location” of RCR.
Clearly, I believe Senators Sports & Entertainment has the potential to play a significant role in the future of Ottawa’s casino. I would welcome that debate.
The question now is whether the Mayor and Council will allow this opportunity to present itself by not supporting the notice of motion in its current form.
Owner, Governor and Chairman
Ottawa Senators and Senators Sports & Entertainment