- »Sudbury Casino Opposition Group Ends KED Appeal
Sudbury Casino Opposition Group Ends KED Appeal
The saga of the development and expansion of the Kingsway Entertainment District in Ontario, commonly known as KED, may finally end. The primary group opposed to the project announced that it dropped the appeal of a court decision.
If the local planning tribunal approves the project, which includes a casino and entertainment arena, the multi-million-dollar project may finally get underway in 2021.
It all goes to show just how complicated a casino proposal and approval can be.
Years and Years of Plans
In 2012, Sudbury’s city council approved a new casino. However, many residents opposed the idea because there had been no public consultation or data, no impact statements or studies.
The current kerfuffle actually began in the mid-2010s when Dario Zulich, a land developer, proposed a significant expansion of the Kingsway Entertainment District in Sudbury. What started with a $60 million proposal expanded into a project with Gateway Casinos including a new casino, pushing the total cost to about $100 million.
In 2019, Zulich and Gateway, among other companies, submitted a total proposal to Sudbury’s city council for approval. Zulich wanted to move things along and show his commitment, so he sold the land to Sudbury for $10. That didn’t seem to help.
Enter Casino Free Sudbury
Not long after the initial 2012 casino approval by the city, some members of the community organized a campaign called Casino Free Sudbury. The premise was that a casino must have the support of the community, per the Ontario Ministry of Finance and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission. Casino Free Sudbury organized to let the government know about the significant opposition to the casino.
Casino Free Sudbury submitted a formal appeal of the casino project to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), hoping for action after 12 previous appeals fell flat.
Later in 2018, LPAT began an investigation into the appeal, declaring it valid. Zulich and Gateway Casinos won standing in the appeal to present their sides of the case.
One year later, in August 2019, LAPT ruled that the matter should proceed to the Ontario Superior Court if concerns persist. Casino Free Sudbury did then apply to the court. The Superior Court did agree to hear the case and set hearing dates for late June 2020.
Rulings and Appeals
The Superior Court issued a ruling in September 2020, denying Casino Free Sudbury’s request to dismantle the bylaws of the Kingsway Entertainment District.
Casino Free Sudbury noted that it spent much time and money pursuing the effort to that point. They planned to gather to consider an appeal of that decision.
On November 1, Casino Free Sudbury announced that it would not appeal further. “We were disappointed in the Superior Court ruling and hired a specialized appeal lawyer to review the decision to determine if there were both grounds and merits for proceeding with an appeal. … The merits were significant; however, we were advised the appeal court would be unlikely to overturn the original decision as deference would be given to the first judge’s decision.”
Further, the group noted that the appeals process would cost another $200K.
Instead of paying that much for the appeal, Casino Free Sudbury settled with the city for that same cost. “The terms of the agreement are confidential,” the group noted.
Not Giving Up
Even so, the fight is not over. Casino Free Sudbury noted that many of the issues addressed by the court case remained before LPAT. With the conclusion of the court matter, the group would push LPAT to issue decisions to move forward.
The group noted that it stands with the “large and diversified group of businesses and citizens behind the LPAT appeal.” And the long-term hope is that Sudbury will reconsider the entire project. They want the casino expansion nixed and the proposed move of the entertainment arena from the downtown area to KED stopped.
The existing Gateway Casinos Sudbury continues to operate as it has been for years. The company now awaits word about a new KED casino.
Meanwhile, Gateway is experiencing a tough year with casino closures mandated by the government in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A planned merger between Gateway and Leisure Acquisition earlier in 2020 fell apart as well, complicating the company’s plans.
Gateway went into 2020 with the planned merger and a resulting estimated value of the new enterprise as US$1.115 billion, not to mention the transition to public trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Plans for 2021 seem to include moving forward with the Sudbury casino expansion, but larger plans for Gateway remain unclear.