It appears that anything, including a move, is possible with OLG’s new plan for the Thunder Bay casino.
A request for information went out to the private sector last week to operate the 13,000-square foot facility. With operation, the private sector could expand the casino’s 450 slot machines to 600 or even add entertainment complexes or hotels.
Because the province has also included 29 new gaming zones in Ontario, the casino could even be moved within Thunder Bay’s new zoning designation, which radiates from the casino’s current location on Cumberland Street from Hodder Avenue to Arthur Street.
While it’s still early, OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti said moving, expanding and adding would be up to the private sector operator.
“If a private sector feels that they could build a bigger facility one to better meet the needs of the community then there is the possibility of relocation of that facility,” he said.
That would need to be approved by OLG and the province first Bitonti said. The process of what the casino would look like and who would run the day-to-day operations is still in its infancy.
Once OLG has reviewed the request for information, a request for proposals will come out later this fall. Bitonti stressed that the casino would not be completely private.
“OLG will still have to be the operating mind behind the facility,” he said. “We’re not getting out of the casino game we’re just realigning ourselves.”
Mayor Keith Hobbs said the move might be a good one when he spoke to OLG earlier this month.
“I even suggested a site by the highway and they’re actually quite excited about that with a hotel component maybe. They thought it was a good idea but we’ll see what happens it’s kind of early to tell right now,” Hobbs said.
Jim Comuzzi, who owns Rooster’s on St. Paul Street, said it’s hard to form an opinion on whether a private operator would be good for the casino.
“It seems like a little bit of a political juggernaut where the parties are not again working together for the good of the people. They’re working against each other for political gain,” he said.
But having an expanded casino downtown would help the area he said especially with waterfront and a possible new events centre.
“Between those three entities we could really bring Thunder Bay north back to the stature that it had in the late 50s and 60s where it was a hub of activity.”
The casino generates more than $50 million a year in revenue from 964,582 visitors with the city getting around $2.2 million from a percentage of slot revenue. Hobbs said as always he wants to see an increase in that percentage.
“That’s kind of up in the air right now,” he said.