Gateway Casinos Face Pushback in Kenora and North Bay

Gateway Casinos owns and operates more than 25 casino properties in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, with several more gaming establishments in the works. It just celebrated its 25th anniversary in business in 2017, and it continues to grow at an exponential pace.

Gateway Casinos Central Gaming Bundle

In March 2018, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) chose Gateway as the service provider for the Central Gaming Bundle. This  included a mix of casinos to be renovated and some to be built from the ground up.

As a part of the bundle, Gateway will invest $31 million to build the new Cascades Casino North Bay in Ontario. The casino and restaurants facility will reportedly create up to 300 new jobs. It will also feature more than 39,000 square feet of casino space. That’s enough for more than 300 slots and eight table games. All being well, it will open in mid-July 2020.

The Kenora area is still in the planning stages. However, Gateway intends to build a 19,000-square-foot casino with 200 slot machines and restaurants. The Playtime Casino Kenora will resemble many other similar “Playtime” branded properties. The hope is that the $21 million project will be able to open in January 2020, though that will likely be pushed back.

Meanwhile, there are problems…with both properties. The North Bay facility is likely moving forward. Meanwhile, there is a court battle in progress over the Kenora casino.

North Bay: Environmental Concerns

As reported by Bay Today, the construction process for the Cascades Casino North Bay is creating some issues, and residents are speaking up.

The soil removed from the new casino site has been dumped in a nearby field, albeit with the permission of the landowner. That person claims the soil has been placed outside of the nearby wetlands and well within permitted space.

Nonetheless, others have complained that some of the soil is draining into a ditch that feeds into Lake Nipissing. In addition, it was dumped over a turtle habitat and is now in the way of the migratory path of the turtles. Ontario land surveyor Paul Goodridge has stepped in to alleviate worries and work with the construction company to find another dumping site on the same property.

The North Bay Conservation Authority is also investigating the regulated area and its proximity to the wetlands. In addition, representative Sue Buckle is monitoring the building of a sediment fence to prevent spillage into a nearby creek.

Kenora: Legal and Location Concerns

This situation is much more complicated and has been ongoing since 2012.

First Nations tribe Wauzhushk Onigum is located in Kenora, and they long wanted the to develop a casino on its reserved land in northwestern Ontario. For years they worked with the OLG and Ministry of Finance, even participating in a long and arduous bidding process. Eventually, Gateway Casinos received the contract to build Playtime Casino Kenora.

The tribe lodged a complaint, alleging that the OLG and Ministry of Finance acted in bad faith, and through a series of unjust behaviours, ensured that Gateway Casinos would get the overall 20-year contract for a series of locations around Ontario.

Wauzhushk Onigum Chief Chris Skead took the complaint to court in April. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Division Court, in fact.

– Challenge Issued in Superior Court

There were three primary decisions that the tribe is challenging in court. The first two happened in 2012 when the OLG bundled Kenora with other gaming zones and invited large companies to bid for the land. They claim that edged out small bidders like the tribe. Then, when Gateway Casinos won the contract in 2017, it was the last straw.

Skead alleged: “This is a case of bullying, of perpetuating rather than undoing colonialism. Ontario and OLG had all the power and wielded it to deny us.”

The three-judge panel heard arguments over four days in early April. An outcome is still pending. Meanwhile, according to Kenora Online, Gateway Casinos is scouting locations in Kenora. The company project will go ahead, according to a Gateway spokesperson. Until the case is decided, though, nothing is likely to happen.

If the court rules unfavorably for the tribe, their next move – if there is one – is unclear. Gateway will likely move forward with the location selection should they win the case.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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