AJAX - Mayor Steve Parish is calling a decision to close the slots operation in Ajax as “devious, backhanded and deceitful.”
On Wednesday, a Peterborough newspaper reported provincial Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal as saying three gaming sites, including Ajax, would have the slots removed.
A Town spokeswoman said officials have reached out to the Ontario Lottery Gaming (OLG) Corporation, but by late Wednesday had not heard back.
OLG did not return calls to the News Advertiser by press time.
Parish said the Town was especially upset it found out about the developments through the media and not being told beforehand by the provincial government or Great Canadian Gaming, the B.C.-based company selected to operate gaming sites in the GTA.
On Monday, Ajax council passed a motion calling for a third-party review of plans for the slots.
“Hiding the truth is the same thing as lying. I expected more from the government and more from our MPP (Joe Dickson),” Parish said.
“I’ve been in politics a long time and I’ve never seen anything so devious, backhanded and deceitful. It’s unbelievable,” he added. “In politics, I’ve seen devious, but this takes the cake.”
The Town plans to fight to keep the casino, he said, adding it will be a major issue locally during the upcoming provincial election.
“It may be better to have an alternative government. This government is devious. We’ll fight this all the way,” Parish said.
Wards 3 and 4 Regional Councillor Colleen Jordan tweeted, “Huge impact on the community - No consultation! Why the secrecy? What’s to hide? Open & transparent process is expected by the public and @TownOfAjax”
Since the Slots at Ajax Downs (recently renamed Casino Ajax) opened in 2006, Ajax has received $75.1 million. In 2016, Ajax received $7.6 million.
The Town uses the money to fund some capital projects, social infrastructure and to reduce the amount of money that needs to be borrowed for projects.
At it’s meeting on Feb. 12, Ajax council unanimously endorsed a third-party review of casino proposals in Ajax and Pickering, including a cost-benefit analysis.
“We need to see those numbers. I’m sure the Ajax site will stand head and shoulders over other sites,” Wards 1 and 2 regional Coun. Shaun Collier said.
“I see this as the most important thing in Ajax in the next provincial election,” Collier added.
A proposal has been put forward by Pickering and the Triple Group of Companies to develop a new casino at Church and Bayly streets in Pickering. It’s called Durham Live and could also include a five-star hotel, performing arts centre, a convention centre, waterpark, commercial operations and an outdoor amphitheatre.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Corporation recently announced the British Columbia based Great Canadian Gaming will operate the casinos in Ajax, at Woodbine Race Track and Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry.