Pending a decision on a casino in the region, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will continue to operate a slots facility in Elora having reached an agreement in principle on a new lease.
Grand River Raceway this week became the 11th of 14 hosts of the slots-at-raceways program to reach a new lease deal with the OLG. The agreement is subject to approval by the Grand River Agricultural Society, owners of the track, and the provincial agency. Terms of the deal were not released, as it remains to be finalized.
Ted Clarke, general manager at Grand River Raceway, said he hopes to have an agreement settled by the end of the month. With a deal in place, the track could go ahead with scheduling of this year’s dates for harness racing.
In the long-term, the future of the slots facility will depend on the OLG’s bid to build a casino in this area, a gaming zone that covers Woolwich, Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot Township and parts of Cambridge and Wellington County. The opening of a casino in a location other than Elora would mean the closure of the facility and its 240 slot machines.
While Centre Wellington Township has indicated its interest in hosting a new casino, no decision has been made. Clarke said he is hopeful the OLG may decide to stay in Elora.
“For the OLG, it’s been a very good site,” he said of the Grand River Raceway.
In the meantime, the raceway will continue to operate as it has since opening in 2003. “It takes years to build something,” he said of a new casino.
With a new facility, to be built and operated by a private-sector partner, the OLG envisions up to 1,200 slot machines and 55 gaming tables.
Woolwich continues to ponder whether or not to put its name in the hat as a host community, with officials seeking public input. Another meeting is planned for later this month.
Even if Woolwich decides it would like to host a casino, the ultimate decision lies with prospective private investors, who would have to see the township as a desirable spot for a facility.
So far, only Cambridge has rejected the idea of being a host community. The game got larger last month when OLG announced at a Wilmot council meeting it would extend the gaming zone to include New Hamburg in the mix.