Casino Plans Still Unconfirmed for Kingsway Development

The Kingsway Entertainment District in Sudbury is not yet a reality. The city’s website claims it will be an “innovative experience and a choice destination for northeastern Ontario that will proudly host visitors to the beautiful city we call home.”

However, it remains an undeveloped piece of land as of April 2019.

Kingsway Entertainment District: A Short Version of a Long Story

For a long time, the debates centred around the funding for the project. Originally, developer Dario Zulich was responsibile for its funding. Nevertheless, it has since become the obligation of Sudbury taxpayers, courtesy of city council members.

Zulich entered the picture in the mid-2010s with a $60 million plan to replace the current arena. The project then grew into one that included a new convention facility, library, and art gallery. The complete Kingsway Entertainment District was envisioned and planned. By June 2017, Gateway Casinos subsequently entered into the equation with a proposal to build a new casino there, and to move its Sudbury Downs facility to the new location.

As the conversations have dragged on, the arena project’s estimated cost has risen to $100 million. The project was originally pegged for completion in 2021. However, many of the taxes and other funding propositions will not be available until 2021 or 2023. This pushes the start date well beyond 2021.

2019 Actions

A hearing from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal had been postponed since November. The results of that provincial meeting regarding the city council’s decision about spending put everything on hold. And the delays of the tribunal, which replaced the Ontario Municipal Board, were becoming as frustrating as the Kingsway project itself.

Meanwhile, by March, Gateway Casinos informed Sudbury officials that it was going to have to find a temporary location for its Sudbury Downs casino while waiting for the Kingsway development. That’s because it needs to make a decision on its current lease that expires in April 2020. Gateway has continued to confirm its commitment to the Kingsway location, but has expressed disappointment in the delays.

Zulich stepped in by March to work with Gateway to assist in finding a temporary site. By April, it was confirmed that Zulich tried to buy a Kingsway motel and restaurant that would house Gateway’s casino until the development moved forward.

Latest Kingsway Entertainment District Developments

In late April, Zulich sold the 35 acres of proposed Kingsway Entertainment District land to the City of Greater Sudbury for $10. The move was mostly a symbolic one to signify that Zulich and the Kingsway project were confident in its future and committed to working with the city.

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, however, had not moved forward with any of the 12 appeals before it. All concerned disputed some aspect of the funding, building, and development of Kingsway. Zoning permissions and locations were in contention, parking agreements were in dispute, and even the process by which the city council voted on funding back in 2017 was to be taken up by the tribunal.

There are even disputes as to how the tribunal will operate to hear the appeals. And that is now in the hands of a Toronto court that must decide how the legal challenges will proceed. The ruling from that court is not expected for another two months. Therefore, the tribunal won’t even be able to schedule its hearings until after that decision is received.

But we digress…

One week after the $10 sale, Zulich came back with another attempt to boost confidence and garner support for the Kingsway Entertainment District. He requested formal discussions with the city council to pitch expanded offerings that would include a conference and convention center. It had once been a part of the talks. It then became a part of the plans for replacing the old arena in the downtown area, but Zulich wants it on the KED site.

Zulich promises that his new proposal will save money for the city.

Meanwhile, the city has had to handle all of the legal bills and associated costs due to the delays. These  will now continue until at least 2021. Providing, of course, the project ever gets an official go-ahead.

Sudbury residents are becoming more frustrated. Some want the KED scrapped altogether, while others want it to go forward. And some want the KED project but without a casino. No matter the outcome, the delays are daunting and tiresome. Moreover, residents know they are footing the bill for the process, complete with all of its postponements.

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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