Good move on a bad bet

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Considering nothing less than a casino is at stake, it is perhaps fitting that Gananoque has been called upon to make a high-stakes gamble on the future of its gaming facility.

The mayor of Kingston, whose city is pursuing a gaming house that could only come at the expense of the existing Casino 1000 Islands, hopes to hedge his bet in the event his city is unsuccessful. Mayor Mark Gerretsen, somewhat audaciously, has tried to convince the co-hosting municipalities of Gananoque and Leeds and Thousand Islands to agree now to a ‘revenue-sharing’ plan, whatever the outcome of Kingston’s casino campaign.

In other words, Kingston – which currently receives none of the nearly $1 million per quarter in revenues the town and the township share – wants the current hosts to forfeit some revenue at a time when they hold all the chips in hopes of keeping some portion of revenue if the casino goes to Kingston in the future.

Some reports have Gerretsen suggesting the deal could be a 50-50 split, which means Kingston would actually get the lion’s share of revenues for a casino it does not have, since the co-hosting communities would continue to share the remaining half, as per their existing agreement. How very magnanimous and neighbourly of the mayor.

But while the mayor attempts his best ‘Cool Hand Luke’ impersonation, hoping to win by bluffing with a poker hand worth nothing, he won’t prove successful. The leadership of Gananoque and TLTI have rightly gone all-in on the future of the casino in Gananoque.

The prospect of the mayor of a Liberal-held city working to convince the Liberal government to move a casino out of a Progressive Conservative stronghold probably should give the co-hosts pause to consider Gerretsen’s overture. After all, as the gas plants debacle showed, these provincial Liberals have already proven their willingness to move facilities around in the interest of political expediency. And, in the long-run, a portion of something is better than all of nothing.

But, ultimately, Gananoque holds too strong a hand: The huge revenues the casino generates in its current location – the second highest in Ontario in its category – and the enormous expense of moving this cashbox to an unproven market where polls show residents reject it, should be enough to keep the chips stacked on Gananoque’s side of the table when the players eventually show their cards.

-        Derek Gordanier, Managing Editor

-        @RTEditorDerek on Twitter




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