Full-fledged casino in the cards for London?

Gamblers playing slot machines at the River Rock Casino in Richmond B.C.
Gamblers playing slot machines at the River Rock Casino in Richmond B.C. Sharon Doucette/CP

City politicians are set to meet behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss a possible casino for London.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment says it wants to build a full-fledged casino in the Forest City that would include a hotel, restaurants, table games and slots.

The corporate services committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the lease agreement between the City of London and the Western Fair Association.

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Gateway, Canada’s largest private casino operator, took over slot operations at Western Fair in May. The company wants to either buy the land or work out a new lease deal. The current lease, which costs Gateway $6 million a year, expires in 2020.

“We need to renegotiate the current lease we have. We’re looking for a more equitable lease arrangement or even potentially purchasing land,” said Rob Mitchell, Gateway’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

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Ontario’s Municipal Act does grant municipal governments to meet behind closed doors for specific issues, including legal advice and financial and personnel matters.

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The Western Fair site is Gateway’s first choice, but Mitchell says they are willing to consider other options.

“We’d like to stay at Western fairground. We would consider another site but our preference is to stay at Western Fair,” he said.

Mitchell declined to say what other locations in London they are considering. Regardless of where they build, Mitchell says they do plan on building in London.

“This will be our signature property, when people point to what Gateway does, they’ll be looking at London,” he said.

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Gateway plans to spend $140 million to build the casino that they will create 700 jobs. Gateway currently employs 300 people in London.

If it does stay at the fairgrounds, more land will be required. Gateway wants to continue operating slots while building the proposed casino in the parking lot. That construction would result in the annual Western Fair, held every September, being moved.

Gateway is eager to break ground in London.

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Mitchell estimates it will take 12-24 months to build the casino.